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Multiple Award Winning Audiobooks for Teens

The 2011 Audies, the awards given annually for excellence in audiobooks,  were announced by the Audio Publishers Association (APA) on May 24, 2011 at a gala event held at the TimesCenter in New York City.  I was lucky enough to be one of the judges for the final winners of the audiobooks for teens. In honor of June being Audiobook Month, here are some of the highlights of the awards for teens.  Not only were they Audie winners or nominees but many have been Odyssey Award winners or honor winners or found on YALSA’s Best Books for Young Adults (BBYA) or Best Fiction for Young Adults (BFYA) lists.

The 2011 Audie winner for teens, The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon, narrated by Dion Graham (Brilliance Audio) is an amazing book in any format but particularly compelling in audio. Graham excellently expresses what it was like for a young black man during the Civil Rights era who is torn between Martin Luther King’s philosophy of non-violence and that of the Black Panthers after he witnesses daily discrimination and police brutality towards a friend.  After his father, a follower of Martin Luther King, is stabbed, teenager Sam’s driven to follow his older brother

in joining the Black Panthers.  Through Graham’s impassioned narration, readers will understand   what it must have been like to be an oppressed black man in the 1960s and driven by events to want   to fight back. Graham has also narrated two other Odyssey Award honor winners: We are the Ship:    The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson


and Peace Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson (both Brilliance Audio) and both 2010 Odyssey Honor Winners.



Another 2011 Audie nominee, Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by John Green and David Levithan (Brilliance Audio) is also a 2011 Odyssey Honor Winner as well as a 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults selection. The audio version, narrated by MacLeod Andrews and Nick Podehl, unforgettably highlights the unique characters of two Will Graysons, one gay and depressed, one straight and confused, and their relationship with Tiny Cooper, a gay football player and talented writer who teaches them what true friendship is all about. Songs from the musical that Tiny writes and produces of his life are unforgettable in the audio format and not nearly as fun if  simply read in the printed format.

Nick Podehl also narrated the 2011 Odyssey Honor Winner The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

(Brilliance Audio). The quote from the Odyssey website says that “Podehl’s gripping narration of this disquieting work of dystopian fiction is masterful.”


One of the most prestigious Audie Awards is the Distinguished Achievement in Production and this year it went to Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices by Walter Dean Myers, also a finalist for the same title in the teen category. The book was also selected for the 2005 Best Books for Young Adults list but the full-cast audio (Live Oak Media) really brings the richness of the characters’ experiences to life and the musical sound effects are also an added treat not found in the printed version.


A narrator that consistently finds herself nominated for multiple Audies year-after-year is no stranger to anyone who listens to audios and that is Katherine Kellgren. She’s narrated all of L. A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack series and  was an Odyssey Honor Winner in 2008 (Bloody Jack) and  2009 (Curse of the Blue Tattoo) and the 2010 Odyssey Honor Winner for In the Belly of the Bloodhound. Kellgren was also nominated for a 2011 Audie Award for Meyer’s Rapture of the Deep.


I urge you to listen to these books on audiobook format. If the writing is superior, it doesn’t matter if it’s published in print or audio format it can be award worthy – especially if it has a good narrator or narrators and all of these audios definitely do.

– Sharon Rawlins, currently reading Gabrielle Zevin’s All These Things I’ve Done

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Sharon Rawlins

Sharon is the Youth Services Specialist at the NJ State Library in Trenton, NJ