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Listen Up: Get Ready for the 2014 Odyssey Award!

2013 December 13
by Guest Blogger
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odyssey award sealWhen awards season rolls around, the main biggies are the most anticipated. Newbery, Caldecott, Printz. Who will win? How many honor books will each committee award? These are all really exciting for me, especially since I became a librarian about two years ago, but the one award I always wait for is the Odyssey Award.

For those of you who don’t know or haven’t heard of this honor, it goes to the best audiobook production of the year. As a big audiobook fan and listener, I’m always looking for the next one to bring with me on my 40-minute commute, or on my morning runs. The Odyssey Award helps me out in a big way. But what makes a great audiobook?

Of course, one of the biggest criteria is the narration. Without a good narrator, an audiobook is not worth the time. Anyone who has listened to a bad audiobook can tell you that. But it goes beyond just “good;” factors like distinction between characters, effectiveness and accuracy of accents and pronunciation, clarity, and believability are all taken into consideration. Basically, listeners have to believe the narrator is the character, or if told in third person, believe they are in the world and know the characters they are describing. It has to feel genuine.

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex

One of my very favorite audiobooks is The True Meaning of Smekday, written by Adam Rex and narrated by Bahni Turpin. I didn’t know until afterward that there were illustrations in the book, but it didn’t matter; Turpin is a master. Her voice for J.Lo and the other Boov aliens is priceless. I don’t know if I would have stumbled across this masterpiece if not for the Odyssey Award, which it won in 2011. I’ve listened to it twice since.

Sound quality is also something that has to be taken into consideration. Is there some weird humming in the background? Is the audio quality as good as it possibly can be? Is it consistent? The committee also takes use of sound effects and music into account. Are they well done, and do they work in the context of the story? An ill-timed use of effect or music can ruin the experience.

In the end, I would argue that it all comes whether the audiobook can do justice to the original in every way possible, and in fact enhance the experience of the book itself. Because that’s what listening to an audiobook is, right? It’s an experience, a new way to immerse yourself in the story and the writing and the lives of the characters.  A truly excellent audiobook can take you right into the characters’ experience and suck you into their world, making you a part of it. Finding out what happens next is great motivation for hitting the pavement and trails, and I always look forward to driving anywhere because I know I’ve got a good story to keep me company.

-Tahleen Shamlian, YALSA Booklist & Award Marketing Task Force member

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3 Responses leave one →
  1. Alissa B permalink
    December 13, 2013

    I love me a good audiobook! One of my absolute favorites is Libba Bray’s “The Diviners.” Reader January LaVoy does an exceptional job with this one! The various character voices (everything from a teen girl to an old man), the inflections, the accents… You forget you’re not listening to a full-cast recording. And don’t forget her pacing, which takes a normally suspenseful story to another level entirely.

    Other amazing audios are: Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle (“Raven Boys” & “Dream Thieves”), Alison Croggin’s “Books of Pellinor,” Frannie Billingsly’s “Chime,” and Daniel Kraus’ “Rotters” (which, if I’m not mistaken, is an Odyssey winner).

    • Sara Ray permalink
      December 14, 2013

      Yes Alissa, Rotters is an Odyssey winner. I read it for the HUB challenge 2 years ago. As someone with a small commute it took me forever to finish that one but it was great! I really enjoyed The Fault in our Stars, Carter’s Big Break, How they Croaked, Okay for Now, Wonder, The Watch That Ends the Night, and Young Fredle. All for the challenge — which I am grateful for so I can discover favorite things like these!!

      For adult audio books, I love anything Janet Evanovich. Her books are hilarious to listen to!

      • Alissa B permalink
        December 16, 2013

        Oh yes! Janet Evanovich’s audios! They’re so predictable (and they’d have gotten away with it too if not for Stephanie Plum and her meddling sidekick Lula), but too much fun not to love. Fault in Our Stars was amazing too. Probably one of the few audios that made me really, really cry to the point I couldn’t listen to it during my commute because I got too distracted and, well, because I was coming into work (or going home) looking all weepy and then had to explain what was wrong. Hard to do when someone hasn’t read the book too. Wonder… I heard awesome things about the audio, and tried multiple times to listen to it, but just couldn’t get past that the narrator they picked for Auggie sounded exactly like Marge Simpson.

        Another fun one is Wisdom’s Kiss by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. The narrators (there are two) are very versatile. As for the story itself, it’s got a really unique format. And, for some reason, it reminded me of The Princess Bride.

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