One of my favorite award presentations to attend at ALA Annual Conference is the Odyssey Award. I love to connect faces with the voices that I hear coming from my car stereo, reading these amazing books. This year was one of my favorite presentations.
The first Odyssey honor was accepted by Katherine Kellgren for her performance reading, Alchemy and Meggy Swann by Karen Cushman (produced by Listening Library). Kellgren is no stranger to the Odyssey, in fact, she has won an honor every year the award has been given, for her reading of the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer. Kellgren thanked Cushman for creating a strong, independent female character, just the kind she liks to play. She closed her acceptance with short reading from Alchemy and Meggy Swan, which taught us all a thing or two about insults.
Nick Podehl was the second narrator to be given an Odyssey honor for his reading of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (produced by Candlewick on Brilliance Audio). This was Podehl’s first Odyssey, but as he read from the book, we all knew it would not be his last. Podehl’s ability to capture each character was astounding, and the crowd was delighted to hear Manchee and Todd come to life through his voice.
The third Odyssey honor was given to Emily Janice Card and Emma Bering for their performances in Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly (produced by Listening Library). You wouldn’t know from listening to it, but the two narrators hadn’t even heard each other’s parts until after the audiobook had been released. Their seemless narration of two girls on an amazing journey together, that spanned space and time, leaves listeners wanting more. Both Emily and Emma spoke of how the story of Revolution touched them. Emma, who grew up in France, thanked the author for handling a difficult time in her country’s history without judgement.
The most animated acceptance speech was given by Nick Pohdel and MacLeod Andrews for their Odyssey honor award for Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (produced by Brilliance Audio). The two raced the podium, fought over the microphone, interrupted each other and finished each other’s sentences. It was obvious, that the recording of this audiobook was a joy, and you can hear it in their readings. They attributed the success of the audiobook to the freedom that their producer allowed them in the recording studio. They worked collaboratively, often directing one another, and the seemless transition of characters from one voice to another is a testament to their hard work. The audience was treated to a selection from Tiny Dancer sung by MacLeod Andrews (personally, I think this should become the next big thing on Broadway).
Lastly, the Odyssey Award was presented to Dan Musselman of Listening Library and Bahni Turpi for her reading of The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. Musselman thanked all of the narrators for their hard work and dedication, and for allowing him to have the best job in the world, listening to stories all day. He spoke of the day that The True Meaning of Smekday crossed his desk, with a note that the author was interested in reading it himself. Since the narrator of the book is an 8th grade girl, Musselman knew he had a difficult phone call to the (30-year-0ld, male) author. Luckily, Rex had since given up on his dream of narrating the book and when Musselman suggested Turpi for the job, Rex readily agreed.
Turpi spoke of the unique experience that was recording The True Meaning of Smekday. After reading only a few pages of the book, she knew she had to work on this project. “How often do you get to play an alien that is described as sounding like a lamb walking on bubble wrap?” she asked. She thanked her director for her meticulous attention to detail and librarians for putting audiobooks in the hands of listeners.
Each of these narrators are amazing readers, do not doubt that they truly represent the best in audiobook production and narration. If you haven’t listened to them yet, please check them out today. You won’t regret it, I promise.
-Kate is currently listening to Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness