Every time I attend ALA there is one event that sticks out from all the other amazing happenings and goings-on. Three years ago it was the Newbery-Caldecott Awards Banquet. And although it can’t match that event in pomp, the 2013 Odyssey Award Presentation will prove just as memorable.
The Odyssey Award is given to the producer of the best audiobook for young and adults and children that’s available in English. Each year a selection committee made up of YALSA and ALSC (Association for Library Service to Children) members chose a winner along with honor titles they feel are deserving of being named as the best in audiobooks. The Odyssey Award presentation is a chance for the Odyssey Award Committee to present the winner and the honor recipients with their awards and to allow the narrators being honored an opportunity to speak and the audience a chance to hear a selection of the honored audiobooks.
First to speak was Nathaniel Parker, narrator of 2013 Odyssey Honor audiobook Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian, produced by Listening Library and written by Eoin Colfer. He is also known for his acting in the Inspector Lynley series and the movie Stardust. Rather than read a selection live for us, Parker took us through the voices for his favorite characters he narrated for the entire eight book series. “You’ve got the YALSA, sounds like a soccer chant, YALSA, YALSA, YALSA!” He told about some of the influences of certain voices, sometimes particular person or place that he used to create the voices. Funny and stunningly charming, I don’t think I was alone in my admiration of Nathaniel Parker.
Next to speak was Elliot Hill, narrator for 2013 Odyssey Honor audiobook Ghost Knight, written by Cornelia Funke and produced by Listening Library. Hill thanked his father for reading him stories before bed, a Miss Havisham for sticking out in his memory for its heartfeltness. Hill also thanked author Cornelia Funke for her writing that lends itself so well for narration, calling her “a performer’s writer: evocative, visceral and descriptive. She seems at once to speak the language of the sophisticate as well as that of a child, expressing something really quite profound in a beautifully simple way.” He also thanked the director of the audiobook Kevin Thompson for a wonderful collaboration before reading a small selection for us.
After the 2013 Odyssey Honor award was presented to Macmillan Audio for Elizabeth Fama’s Monstrous Beauty, we got a special treat. Author Elizabeth Fama read a letter of thanks to the narrator of her book, Katherine Kellgren, for turning her into an avid audiobook listener with her well-researched and tremendous performance. “Katherine Kellgren has turned me into a non-reader. This is a brave thing for me to admit at the annual meeting of the Ameri-freaking Library Association.” It was an moving and heartfelt address that brought tears to a few eyes, including Kellgren herself when it was her turn to speak.
Kellgren spoke of her great love of audiobooks, starting with a cassette tape of Shakespeare’s speeches, and said she was “proud to be part of the chain that ends up with a book or an audiobook in then hands of a child.” She read to us a selection of Monstrous Beauty. As a huge fan of her work, it was a true pleasure to hear her read live.
John Green’s A Fault in Our Stars, produced by Brilliance Audio and narrated by Kate Rudd, won the 2013 Odyssey Award. Kate began her presentation by thanking her mother, a librarian and single parent, for instilling in her a love of storytelling. “I lived in a small home filled with stacks of highly disorganized books of every genre possible. There was no children’s section.” She went on to thank a junior high teacher, Mr. Wood for encouraging Rudd with special history assignment. “He took me aside afterward and he said ‘Kid, I don’t know what you’re going to do with your life but you’re going to tell stories somehow. I don’t know if you’ll be in broadcast, I don’t know if you’ll do theater — I’m just going to keep my ears out for you someday.”
After the presentations the audience was given a CD featuring selections from the honored audiobooks and a full copy of one of the honored audiobooks. There was a small reception generously sponsored by the Audiobook Publishers Association. A huge thank you to Teri Lesesne and the 2013 Odyssey committee for their hard work, the narrators, publishers, YALSA, and ALSC for making such a wonderful event possible. It was truly a memorable moment from ALA 2013.
— Amanda Margis, reading Awaken by Meg Cabot and listening to The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, narrated by Nick Podehl (2011 Odyssey Honor Audiobook!)