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Gildart Jackson’s narration is full of an old-fashioned regal lilt as befits a tale set in the twelfth century in the world of monasteries, hand-copied manuscripts, and wild creatures outside the walls. Brother Hugo is mortified that a bear has eaten his library copy of the letters of St. Augustine. As he sets out to re-create the manuscript, aided by fellow monks, listeners learn about the bookmaking process from sheepskin to final clasps. Jackson adds a gentle authority as the abbot and the prior, the latter of whom reminds Brother Hugo, “Books are food for the souls of men, not bears.” Listeners will catch bemusement in Jackson’s voice as he delivers the constant stomach grumbling and lip smacking that torments the monastery all Lent long. Light background music augments the period setting. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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PAX

Peter and his pet fox, Pax, are inseparable until war parts them. Then, Peter must live with his grandfather and set the fox free. Narrator Michael Curran-Dorsano recounts their parallel journeys. As he exists in the wild, Pax questions domesticity. Peter begins as a submissive boy bent on staying safe, but Curran-Dorsano hints at dark feelings that lurk below his acquiescence. As Peter journeys to find his fox, he becomes the unwilling mentee of Vola, a jaded ex-soldier, who challenges Peter to find his true self. Curran-Dorsano renders Vola's outward harshness and underlying caring. This haunting story about war, sacrifice, and survival has action as well. Curran-Dorsano's pacing quickens into breathlessness in these scenes as he gives them the same fullness he brings to his characterizations. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Andrew Eiden deftly captures the colorful vernacular of Washington State in the 1890s. His Western twang gives authenticity to 12-year-old Joseph as he searches for his beloved horse, who has been stolen from him. Joseph has suffered a series of losses--the death of his mother, sister, and father have made him determined to get back what is rightfully his. Not surprisingly, Eiden's narration often projects as much longing as drawl as Joseph is haunted by his family members' words and what their lives meant. Traveling with Joseph is a Chinese boy, Ah-Kee, who speaks no English and faces great prejudice. Eiden's portrayal includes Joseph's developing tenderness and respect for his companion. This story is full of emotion, adventure, and a strong sense of time and place. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Michael Crouch's voice suggests the unspoiled innocence of 11-year-old Perry, who has been raised in a coed correctional facility where his mother is incarcerated. Perry's enthusiasm for small pleasures expresses an appreciation born of his sheltered background. Crouch voices Perry's simple thoughts and comments, which reveal the rich perspective and wisdom he has derived from his nurturing mother and the male inmates who have raised him. The irony is painful when a district attorney decides to rescue Perry from his prison home. Crouch clearly conveys the D.A.'s ruthlessness. Kathleen McInerney, Perry's loving mother, burns with fury for the man and the legalities that separate her from her son. She fiercely hides the past as Perry determines to discover the truth. This poignant story inspires questions about truth, justice, family, and home. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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With high animation, actor Jack Black calls directly to the listener: "Pssssst--hey, YOU! Are you afraid of MONSTERS? Do they make you SHIVER and SHAKE and shut your eyes really tight at night?" Music provides an ambiance of mystery as listeners enter the Little Shop, like it or not. As each monster is introduced, Black shouts a warning (as Sneezer sneezes right in your face), or exclaims (while looking at the size of Billy Belly's belly), or is as matter-of-fact as can be (while describing Tina-Not-Ticklish). Black's pacing is brisk and intense. His elocution is precise, and he relishes expanding upon each word with, for example, a gravelly growl or a slurping munch. The musical score is tailored to the story--along with snores and giggling--all helping to project Black's playful delivery. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Suzy Jackson transports listeners into the colorful world of 6-year-old Dory, who is better known as Rascal to her family. With a light, breathless voice, Jackson convinces listeners they're right in the midst of Dory's family struggles or, on other occasions, in her imagination. While siblings Luke and Violet scheme to keep Rascal out of their hair, she responds by involving imaginary friends in retaliation. Jackson mirrors Dory's boundless energy as she pesters her older siblings with endless questions, irritates her mother to the extreme by pretending to be a dog at the pediatrician's office, and rattles off a list of terrible things Mrs. Gobble Gracker might do when she whisks Dory away. Relish this audio treat! A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Straightforwardly, narrator Lizan Mitchell sets the book's historical scene. It's 1904, and Susan B. Anthony is to introduce Harriet Tubman at the 28th annual convention of the New York Suffrage Association. Mitchell's narration turns rhythmic as she delivers the lyrical writing of Nikki Grimes, who pictures the two women meeting over tea. Awaiting her guest, Anthony describes Tubman as a woman whose stories are "river deep." Mitchell actualizes that characterization in a voice that is deep, slow, and sonorous. Mitchell's portrayal of Anthony is crisp, with forceful bursts that reveal her beliefs and oratory skills. The audiobook's breadth is vast as it speaks of slavery, women's rights, and other historical events and people. Mitchell's vocal range enlivens the historical stories, the women's remembrances, and the interplay of their conversation. S.W. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Once again, as author and narrator, Tim Federle captures all of the angst and exuberance of middle-schooler Nate Foster. Young Nate is on a quest for Broadway stardom—as listeners learned in BETTER NATE THAN EVER, a 2014 Odyssey Honor book. In this new audiobook, Federle manages both nuance and melodrama as Nate, having landed an understudy role in E.T.: THE MUSICAL, discovers that auditioning is easy compared to the hard work of rehearsals and navigating the hypocrisy and jealousy of others in the theater world. Federle’s delivery reflects his familiarity with the characters. His pacing and inflection will have listeners feeling they’re right there with Nate and the rest of the raucous crew, both backstage and offstage. Issues of family, friendship, and sexual awareness are handled with humor and sensitivity, making this a worthy recipient of a 2015 Odyssey Honor. S.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Twelve-year-old Davis thinks a lot about adjectives. Everyone’s got one: the MEAN girl, the ANNOYING kid. Davis’s adjective is HUSKY. That means fat, he’d be the first to tell you. With middle school fast approaching, he sees his relationships with his peers shifting and changing. He wonders . . . can he change his adjective? The author narrates this story with the assurance of someone who has traveled a similar path. As he voices each character, the listener gets an authentic feel for Davis’s world. The loud brogue of Davis’s Irish grandmother, the condescending voice of preteen Allegra, the friendly joshing of Paolo are especially effective in making the story seem real. Sayre balances the humor and pathos of the preteen psyche as Davis searches for self-acceptance. N.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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”For precocious grownups” announces the book’s introduction, and one wonders about the audience for this excellent four-book audio collection about the girl who lives at the Plaza Hotel. Still, if Eloise fans want to share this classic with their children and enjoy it again themselves, this production is the way to go. The incomparable Bernadette Peters consistently expresses the singular voice of Eloise—with its curious mix of pseudosophistication and youthful verve. Whether she’s affecting a French accent or singing a tuneless duet with her nanny, Eloise’s energy and activity level can sometimes be maddening. Musical interludes are a wonderful accompaniment; for example, “The Flight of the Bumblebee” aids in describing her busy flights up and down elevators. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine

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Dustin Hoffman brings whimsical energy to the charming adventure of a young possum called Appleblossom. Like Hoffman, Appleblossom and her siblings were born for the stage, spending their childhoods preparing for the high-stakes performances of their lives. Trading his naturally gravelly voice for a softer, squeakier version, Hoffman captures the innocence and curiosity of both the young possum and the human characters. Older characters from all over the animal kingdom also benefit from Hoffman's versatility and wide-ranging accents. But it's his engagement with the text that defines Hoffman's performance. He excels at highlighting the playfulness of Sloan's writing, matching his inflection and delivery to underscore the clever wordplay and well-timed punch lines. A.S. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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MaameYaa Boafo’s rich, warm voice entices youngsters to listen in on the attempts of diminutive Imani to touch the moon. Inspired by a bedtime story about Olapa, the Maasai goddess of the moon, and by her mother’s advice, Imani is determined to “do something great.” Boafo sets a leisurely pace and has a self-assured storyteller’s lilt and cadence. She stretches out words as Imani attempts to climb a tree to the moon, mimics the teasing of village children, richly coos as Imani’s mother, voices the chimpanzee’s staccato amazement, and bursts aloud joyfully with Imani’s success. Sound effects of Imani’s village provide scene-enhancing background. The author concludes the production with her thoughts on the inspiration for the story. A.R. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Music infuses this production as four narrators perform interlocked stories about children who encounter a magical harmonica in different time periods. Narrator Mark Bramhall sets the tone with his powerful, accented portrayal of Otto, a boy who gets lost in an orchard and first finds the magical harmonica before WWI. From there, David de Vries, MacLeod Andrews, and Rebecca Soler take listeners from Germany to Pennsylvania to California with distinctive performances that give a sense of place and life to characters struggling with the rise of the Nazi party, the Great Depression, and then WWII itself. A riveting exploration of that which destroys and that which heals. A.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Odyssey Honor, 2016 ALA Youth Media Award, 2016 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Presented with a full cast, this story is a delightful romp from Scotland to Connecticut via the Enchanted Realm with Angus Cairns, a curse-carrying brownie. Euan Morton, as the kind but fiery-tempered brownie, steals the show with his heavy Scots brogue and animated dialogue. Morton’s comic timing is perfect for Angus’s wry observations of his new life in the relatively unenchanted United States. Angus must work to break the curse with help of a brownie’s worst nightmare—a slovenly girl named Alex, voiced by perky 13-year-old Nancy O’Connor. The diary entries of Alex and Angus comprise most of the book. Other cast members fill in as family, friends, and teachers, delivering dialogue or supplementary letters and messages. L.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Graham Rowat’s lyrical performance is immediately engaging, a necessary thing, given the brevity of this book. His lively narration highlights the story’s historical details. Best of all, his sober yet whimsical tone is perfectly suited to this story about a small-town girl who creates her own brand of science after persevering in uncovering the facts behind stories of the creature known as the griffin. Rowat’s modulations convey Adrienne Mayor’s fascination with the natural world, stories, and Greek mythology, which led to her discovery of fossils and other evidence proving that the mythical eagle-lion hybrid, observed and documented by Scythians, was, in fact, related to the dinosaur. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Cassandra Morris picks up the lively tone set by the musical introduction and builds on it with an enchanting performance. After the “unicorn incident,” young Pip Bartlett, who speaks to animals, is sent to Cloverton, South Georgia, to spend summer with her aunt to keep her out of trouble. But Pip finds herself immersed in adventures because Aunt Emma is a vet of magical creatures. Morris demonstrates great control and versatility in tone, pitch, and voice, effectively capturing the humor and personality of each character. Variety in cadence and volume skillfully conveys the spirit and emotions of the young protagonist. Peter McGowan is the voice of Jeffrey Higgleston, the author of Pip’s “bible”—GUIDE TO MAGICAL CREATURES. McGowan’s even, authoritative narration perfectly complements Morris’s dynamic performance and makes for an entertaining listen. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Susan Denaker does a splendid job with this fourth in the Penderwick series. Although part of a large blended family, each of the Penderwick kids is distinct, along with their many friends and neighbors. At center stage is Batty, who sounds determined and earnest as she begins a dog-walking business (with hilarious consequences) to help raise money for the family. Adorable little brother Ben and spoiled baby Lydia add to the confusion and fun. Denaker is impressive with the foreign languages that the family members occasionally use. She's also very moving as Batty copes with the double loss of her mother--who died at her birth--and her beloved dog, Hound. Listeners will enjoy the feeling of nostalgia that permeates this contemporary novel. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Author Matt de la Peña and narrator Lizan Mitchell are a winning combination in this story of CJ, an African-American boy, and his nana as they take the bus after Sunday church. Mitchell inhabits both CJ and his grandma from the moment he pushes through the church doors and questions why they must take a rickety bus while others have cars. She replies, "We don't need a car; we have a bus that breathes fire." Mitchell's spirited recitation of "The bus lurched forward and stopped, lurched forward and stopped" ensures that young listeners can vividly imagine the action. Each of CJ's complaints is met with Nana's warmly rendered clever and fun alternatives. Audio is the ideal way for kids to experience this emotive gem. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, Newbery Medal 2016, ALA Youth Media Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Jenna Lamia’s performance conveys the mystery and beauty in this tale about a girl who must balance her family secret with trying to discover the monster that lives in her small town. Lamia’s portrayal of Twig is spot-on, with high tones that capture the 12-year-old’s curiosity and a softened voice and deliberate pacing that convey her ability to temper her open-mindedness with logic. Other characters are also effectively represented as Lamia’s stirring range of voices highlights their personalities and relationships with one another—especially the heartfelt bonds between Twig, her brother, and her mother. Lamia’s narration brings out the haunting qualities of the story without becoming frightening, making this a suitable and engaging listening experience for older children. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Obedient fifth-grader Tamaya defends a bullied classmate in the woods and encounters a strange, fuzzy mud that causes inconceivable repercussions. She may have rescued her friend from the bully—but at what cost? Beginning with the lighthearted tone of a happy fifth-grader, Kathleen McInerney’s delivery changes as Tamaya's situation grows desperate. Listeners learn the true nature of the mud from excerpts of secret Congressional hearings, replicated in the style of actual hearings, with a full cast of senators, witnesses, and the whispered asides of the attending news reporter. The fear in the characters’ dialogue and the tension in the narration are palpable. This is classic sci-fi, which should spark conversation on overpopulation and the concept of the greater good. Don't miss the author's note, read by Sachar himself. L.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, and Mary Godwin, creator of the science-fiction genre, are cleverly brought together in a series that weaves history, science, and mystery in a way that is sure to appeal to Lemony Snicket fans. Nicola Barber tells the story with a flair and liveliness that add realism to this little time-travel jaunt. Her British pronunciations of some words may sound odd to the American ear, but she ably breathes life into this interesting cast of characters, especially Ada; Mary; the tutor, Peebs (Percy Bysshe Shelley); and an unwitting travel mate, a young Charles Dickens. They use curiosity, book smarts, and quick thinking to expose a false confession and recover a stolen gemstone. A great start to a promising new series. N.E.M. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Lizan Mitchell's emotive delivery enhances this dynamic picture of the unique friendship and vast accomplishments of civil rights activists Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass. Anthony and Douglass met in 1849 and maintained a forty-five-year friendship. Mitchell impeccably re-creates each character through their conversations and rousing public speeches. They spoke their minds despite being booed, out-shouted, and even threatened. Quotes from their letters and from newspapers are movingly rendered as are their ideological disagreements. Notes by the author reveal that she decided to write this book because she believes this fascinating friendship should be more well known. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Young listeners are the perfect audience for William Kamkwamba's inspiring memoir. Speaking in accented English, narrator Korey Jackson captures the lighthearted tone as William describes his early life in a remote Malawian village. Dialogue includes friendly banter in William’s native Chichewa language. The listener can’t help but like this fair, friendly, and inquisitive teenager. In chronicling the horrific drought that brought the author’s family close to starvation and forced him to drop out of school, Jackson mirrors the mood with a more serious tone. Misery, however, inspires William. He decides to build a windmill and bring electricity to his home. Using only library books and scrapyard castoffs, he miraculously succeeds. Korey Jackson succeeds in portraying Kamkwamba as the affable and motivating young man that he is. L.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Jayne Entwistle's narration enhances this bittersweet story of two poor children from London during WWII. Ten-year-old Ada has an untreated clubfoot and has never left home because her mother is ashamed of her disability. Nonetheless, when Ada realizes her precious younger brother, Jamie, is leaving London to escape the bombing, she decides to follow him. Entwistle movingly captures the children's sweet naïveté as well as their abusive mother's brutality. She deftly portrays country dweller Susan Smith, who is at first reluctant to take in the children. Along with a touching story, listeners will be rewarded with a fascinating history from the perspective of kids who lived through the war. With her skillful presentation of true-to-life characters, Entwistle's narration is totally compelling. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2016 Odyssey Award, 2016 ALA Youth Media Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Chris Cox brings some of Dr. Seuss’s beloved characters— Horton, Marco, Officer Pat, and the Grinch—to new life in this collection of stories not previously published in book form. Cox narrates at a steady clip, letting the flow, rhythm, and cadence of Seuss’s words take center stage. He elongates words at times—for example, as the Kwuggerbug tells Horton the elephant to “streeeeeeetch out your trunk”—and emphasizes Seuss’s alliteration —”tattered his toenails and bruised all his bones.” Cox’s voice is youthful and playful, perfect for what Seuss’s calls “logical insanity.” To complete the production, Seuss expert Charles Cohen provides insights on Seuss’s literary career. A.R.

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A masterful story and a cast of five individual voices combine to deliver a real thriller. Told in the alternating viewpoints of five teenagers, the story begins in the boring, serene, and aptly named town of Serenity. Ramon de Ocampo as Eli is the best narrator of the quintet, transitioning from a bored, carefree, and pampered teen to a serious young man who is desperately unravelling a disturbing plot. Mike Rylander also shines in the difficult task of voicing Malik, the angry, cynical teen who will earn listeners’ grudging admiration. The five teens, three boys and two girls, will join forces against the adults in a town that is not what it seems. This thriller is the first in a series. L.T. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Settle in, listeners, for an epic adventure in the Enchanted Forest, where humans, anthropomorphic animals, and fairy-tale characters attempt to coexist. When Ursula Brown arrives to be governess for young Teddy Vaughn, what does she encounter but a slew of oddball characters—including a girl in a bear suit, an inscrutable nurse, townspeople who are ready to come to blows, and a love interest—all brought together amid mystery and melodrama. Katherine Kellgren’s high-intensity narration brings all the characters to life. When the doorknob rattles at night, Kellgren’s high pitch portrays Ursula’s quaking under her covers. Kellgren fills Mr. Vaughn’s Latin quotes with aristocratic authority. And she makes Mrs. Shoe sound just as repulsive as someone who cares more about money than her daughter should sound. Kellgren’s interpretations are to be treasured. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Cassandra Morris’s youthful voice is perfect for spunky Gloriana. Glory is looking forward to summer days of swimming in the community pool and celebrating her twelfth birthday. But the year is 1964, and the place is Hanging Moss, Mississippi. With the arrival of Northerners who plan to run a clinic, friendships, politics, and values are about to change. In a slight Southern accent, Morris makes Glory sound believably indignant when her sister chooses her cosmetics over a game of “junk” poker. Morris also captures Glory’s mixed emotions as she looks back on her decision to share secrets. Supporting characters, especially thoughtful housekeeper Emma and spiteful Mrs. Simpson, are memorable, with Morris’s portrayals adding to the story’s verisimilitude. An afterword by the author completes the production. A.R. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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RED

Spoiler alert: Young listeners need to know that Red is a blue crayon with a red paper wrapper. With this information, the humor and the celebration of determination and individuality come shining through this story. When his family and his crayon friends can’t figure out why Red is not a successful crayon, it takes a new friend to help him soar. As narrator, Robin Miles purposefully lets each story moment have the spotlight, and she gives personality to everyone in the crayon box. Red’s teacher has an authentic “teacher voice” when encouraging him, his grandparents sound well meaning but dismayed, and the scissors’ brisk speaking pace suggests their quick snips. Best of all is Miles’s depiction of Red’s elation when he begins his new project. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Author Jacqueline Wilson and narrator Madeleine Leslay are a winning combination as they present 7-year-old triplets Philippa, Maddie, and Tina. Tina was born very delicate and is catered to be everyone, including her sisters. When the girls are separated by a strict teacher, Tina must stand up for herself for the first time in her life. Leslay is great as tough but nice Miss Lovejoy, wise and wonderful Grandad, and the smartest kid in the class, Alistair. But her standout is know-it-all Selma, who challenges and sometimes even bullies Tina. Their conversations, heated and funny at first, turn friendly when the girls must work together to build a butterfly garden. Listeners will learn interesting facts about butterflies and gain a valuable lesson about friendship. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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The last time 12-year-old Carley Connors cried was 384 days ago, when her mother married her abusive stepfather. Narrator Nora Hunter captures Carley’s conflicted emotions—her snarky side and her unvoiced but obvious fears. Now facing foster care, she remembers how her mother warned, “Never show your fear.” But despite her social worker’s assurances about her placement with the Murphys, she’s shaking. Still, she hasn’t totally lost her attitude: “I love it when people use the word ‘please’ but look like they want to remove your face.” Hunter’s portrayal of the warm, caring Julie Murphy contradicts Carley’s perceptions, and Carley’s mother’s hardness. As the story and characters evolve, so do their painful dissonances and their eventual heartbreaking understandings. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Luke Daniels zestfully narrates a story of the good-natured friendship between 9-year-old Trille Integard and his neighbor, Lena Lidd, Norway's answer to Pippi Longstocking. Daniels renders Trille as hesitant and introspective while Lena is a sometimes-unpredictable risk taker who is often rescued by her stalwart friend. In addition to skillfully capturing the kids, Daniels deftly portrays adults, especially enthusiastic Grandad as he and his young charges sail on the fjords. Each gorgeous description of Mathildewick Cove and the many--sometimes dangerous--adventures of the pair are relayed with gusto. Most thrilling is the kids' re-creation of Noah's Ark on Uncle Tron's small boat. Daniels's vivid description puts listeners on board with the reluctant animals. A gem of a listen for all ages. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Gorgeous orchestral music contributes to the dramatization of these charming tales. In "The Emperor's New Clothes," narrator Erica Johns creates the ideal huffy voice for the emperor, shady-sounding voices for the swindlers, and a realistic child's voice when all is revealed. In "The Tinder Box," listeners can almost see the crafty witch as she cajoles the soldier to steal with her creepy voice. The Ugly Duckling quacks believably as Johns elegantly describes nature. The hunting dogs' splashes into the water are also appropriately frightening and dramatic. Listening is an excellent way to enjoy Andersen's humor and wise lessons. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Jack Patterson’s dynamic performance captures the emotions of fifth-grader Sammy Rodriguez-Hayes and his “brother”—the robot he calls “Error.” Sammy’s youth and awkwardness are effectively conveyed by Patterson with an energetic voice and well-timed, perfectly delivered quips. Patterson’s portrayal of the robots is also superbly done, with a fractured, irregular pace to convey their fragmented speech. The addition of sound effects of echoing and electronic pings adds another dimension to their realistic metallic voices. Patterson’s lively presentation of all the characters is immediately engaging, and he deftly modulates his tone to highlight the moments of joy and seriousness in this endearing story. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Bronson Pinchot performs with the wise air of a storyteller, an appropriate style for a novel built on the tales that Micah's Grandpa Ephraim tells about the magical circus he visited as a boy. Pinchot's voice for Micah is equal parts wonder and grief as he confronts Ephraim's failing health and sets out to find Circus Mirandus and the mysterious Light Bender who once promised his grandfather a miracle. Pinchot's narration captures the excitement as magic seeps into the story and Micah and his kind but skeptical friend Jenny outwit Ephraim's abrasive sister to find the Light Bender and make him fulfill his promise. A solid fantasy particularly good for family listening. A.F. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Bravo to Katherine Kellgren, whose prodigious narrating skills are on display in this production. Kellgren moves up and down her vocal register with seeming ease and employs a shifting tempo as she narrates this droll tale of girls who are shipped off—literally, in cardboard boxes—to a lighthouse school, where they’re transformed into “Rapscott girls” by the devoted headmistress of the same name. Ms. Rapscott—with her imperious voice full of pronouncements—rolls her “r’s” at every possible opportunity, rattles off lists of parental offenses, and waxes sadly about her own birthday-cakeless childhood. Kellgren elongates vowels for emphasis and creates memorable voices for some of the girls, such as screeching Beatrice and whining Faye. This story is practical, adventure filled, and fun. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Miriam Margolyes’s performance is as delightful and magical as the Hans Christian Andersen and Charles Perrault fairy tales she narrates in this classic children’s collection. Margolyes has a strong command as a storyteller, with smooth, definite shifts in and out of the all-knowing narrator’s voice. She wholeheartedly portrays a myriad of characters that include a soft-spoken and secretive princess, a determined Jack and his annoyed mother, a dejected duckling, and a clever cat. While Margolyes’s effervescent narration conjures up the characters and their magical worlds effectively in their own right, the ongoing orchestral accompaniment adds an extra dimension to the story. The instruments, with their varying pitches and tempos, add further details to the characters, making for an enchanting listening experience for children and grown-ups alike. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Few author-narrators are better than Morris Gleitzman, and he doesn't disappoint with this heartbreaking WWI novel. Sixteen-year-old Frank Ballantine persuades his father to join the war effort. Gleitzman perfectly presents the father-son relationship as they travel from Australia to Egypt. Following the custom of the time, they take their horses with them into battle. When his father is killed, Frank's conversations with his horse, Daisy, are bittersweet. Gleitzman so impeccably renders the horror of war that listeners will feel they’re on the battlefield. The greatest tragedy is being with Frank when he hears that he’ll not be taking Daisy home with him at the end of the war. Gleitzman informs listeners that he was approached by Michael Morpurgo, author of WAR HORSE, to write this companion piece. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Listeners will chuckle as they enjoy the latest escapades of twins Ling and Ting. Whether it’s planting cupcakes in the garden, reading each other’s minds, painting toys with lucky red paint, or crafting a story that is NOT silly, listeners can count on encountering some child-friendly twists. Narrator Tara Sands capitalizes on each surprise. She’s forceful as Ting insists that she’ll try anyway after Ling has told her she needs seeds, not cupcakes, to plant in her garden. And she’s exuberant as Ling exclaims that she can swing higher than any tree or mountain or even the clouds. At the end, Sands slows and lowers her register as she concludes Ling and Ting’s jointly written story—a “very, very silly story,” they say, that is “just like us.” A.R. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Katie Lyons smoothly takes the reigns in Stroud’s second ghost-detecting escapade. Psychic agents Lockwood, George, and Lucy are challenged by rival agents, a deadly mystical mirror, and a spirit trapped in a jar. Their investigation has no shortage of creepy moments, and Lyons meets each one head-on, eliciting shivers from listeners. Lyons is skilled at maintaining a breakneck pace while also capturing the group dynamic—Lucy’s no-nonsense narrative, George’s snarky comments, and Lockwood’s cool and confident exterior. Lyons’s flexibility with emotions is well suited to Stroud’s talent for mixing the gruesome with the laugh-out-loud funny. Her perfect rendering of the skull’s unearthly whispers will pique the interest of any fan of macabre adventures. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Jared Goldsmith’s kinetic performance captures the excitement, drama, and danger in the life of detective extraordinaire Timmy Failure, age 11. Goldsmith’s high-spirited narration brings out the multidimensional aspects of this third book in the illustrated children’s series. Goldsmith’s wide range of diverse and distinct voices reflect the goofiness and toughness in the motley characters who are involved in Timmy’s efforts to acquire the “Miracle Report,” a school assignment that received an “A+++++.” Goldsmith’s lively voices, coupled with spot-on intonations that capture the tongue-in-cheek drama and silliness of the characters, make for an effervescent listening experience for children and grown-ups alike. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Nick Podehl demonstrates masterful narration skills as he balances humor and heart in this historical fiction. Ike wants to join the fight in the Civil War, but he's too young, and he's the only male family member left. Still, he knows there has to be a way he can make it to the South. Throughout Ike's adventures, he encounters an eclectic cast of characters, each given a unique voice and personality by Podehl. With excellent pacing and comedic timing, Podehl excels at engaging listeners and making them connect with Ike and the rest of the citizens of Keokuk, Iowa. A fantastic listen for all ages. S.B.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Humphrey Bower brings Georg Mark’s childhood in Nazi Germany to life with precise German accents and phrases. As Georg becomes George to escape Nazi persecution, first in England and later in Australia, Bower presents realistic characterizations with English and Australian accents. The voices Bower creates for Georg’s Australian foster family, the Peaslakes, make them a memorable example of the indomitable will of ordinary citizens in wartime. Steady, appealing narration enhances this slowly building story of home and identity. Bower’s ability to capture the history and setting of Georg’s story makes French’s novel ideal for use in school as well as for general reading. C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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It's almost impossible to select narrator Rebecca Soler's best character in this gem for young listeners. Ten-year-old Melody Bishop's mother died when she was a baby. Since then, it's always been just she and her dad—until she hears him call someone “honey” over the phone. Soler is self-assured and bright as Melody, her best friend, Nick, and her kind dad. Other memorable characterizations include those of a bratty six-year-old neighbor named Teeny and Grandpo Bishop, who goes to the garage “to look for a hammer" when he's going for a smoke. The story's rich text is enhanced by Soler's delivery, with verbs and adjectives getting all the necessary verve. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Three narrators deliver a compelling performance. Moving seamlessly through the story, they complement both the developing plot and one another’s voices. Angela Goethals is the voice of Margaret, who must travel back through time from 2014 to 1938 in an attempt to change history and save her father from a death sentence. Goethals’s clear, resonant voice has a haunting quality that brings out the urgency of Margaret’s mission. Steven Kaplan and Josh Hurley also give moving performances that convey the themes of loyalty and friendship, adding to a captivating listening experience. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listeners will find Michael Goldstrom's warm, inviting voice a reassuring presence in Hagen's inventive story of ravens, bravery, and the battle between good and evil. His voice has a hint of brassiness, which shines in his portrayals of the cunning, raspy birds. There’s also a boldness in his depictions of the human characters, the fiery young Gabriel and his friends. Younger listeners will find companionship with the courageous and offbeat teens, while older listeners will respond to the darker themes and complex history of the battling ravens. Wordplay and Goldstrom’s cleverly nuanced delivery add levity to dark moments, making this a rewarding listen for all ages. K.S.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Jayne Entwistle is a wry, spirited narrator, and her scratchy, warm voice is expertly matched to this dark comedy. When their headmistress and her brother die unexpectedly, the students of St. Etheldreda's school must think quickly, keep up appearances, and attempt to solve their murder before anyone is the wiser. The language of this story is almost Victorian, but Entwistle keeps events and characters clear, and her meticulous pacing is well suited to a murder mystery. Despite the gruesome deaths and the ensuing intrigue, Berry’s wickedly hilarious group of intelligent, triumphant young women and Entwistle's range of emotions and characterizations make this piece a compelling listen. K.S.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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There are distinct benefits to hearing this audiobook read by its author. There’s no ambiguity about the mood, and the pacing is perfect, with pauses in all the right places. When Emma goes for a moonlit walk with her steadfast dog, Tristan, she finds a blue genie trapped in his bottle and releases him. Karim, however, cannot grant Emma the customary three wishes because an evil yellow genie has stolen his powerful and magical nose ring. Emma and Tristan join Karim on a magic carpet quest to retrieve the stolen ring. Cornelia Funke delivers straightforward humor and breathless suspense in a style usually reserved for older listeners. Her soft, low German-accented voice will captivate elementary-school listeners with its exotic air of adventure. L.T. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listeners are treated to Marilyn Singer’s second collection of folktale-based reverso poems, her own poetic creations whose lines produce whole new meanings when read from top to bottom or from bottom to top. As narrator, Singer is tuned in to sharing the nuances that changes in punctuation, word order, and emphasis bring to the same poetic lines. In “Will the Real Princess,” the words “this bed rocks” exude ecstasy when read one way or agony when incorporated into the reverse line. Joe Morton narrates with playfulness; he’s an especially low-voiced and leisurely Turtle in contrast to his jumping-up-and-down-the-register and speedy Hare in “Ready, Steady, Go.” The author’s explanation of reverso poetry and synopses of the volume’s folktales complete the production. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Author and narrator Keith Richards, of the Rolling Stones, wins the listener over easily with his working-class English accent and unmistakable fondness for his topics—his first guitar and his beloved grandfather, Gus. The musically talented Gus familiarized the young Richards with music and gave him his first guitar, suggesting the classical "Malagueña” as the pinnacle of guitar mastery. Richards intersperses bits of “Malagueña” in appropriate spots throughout the seven-minute story. And during a remembered visit to a London music shop, musician Steve Jordan, known for his collaborations with Richards, plays drums. Richards collaborated with other authors, but this is obviously HIS story, imbued with familiarity, warmth, and sincerity. We even get to hear him chuckle. L.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Bahni Turpin perfectly captures 10-year-old Octobia May, who's sent to live with her Aunt Shuma in her boardinghouse after she suffers a heart ailment at birth. Turpin portrays each of the personable boarders, skillfully re-creating men and women—Jewish, black, and white—as independent and distinct individuals. Feisty Octobia has a freedom seldom enjoyed by other "colored" girls in Eisenhower's America. She's convinced Mr. Davenport, one of the boarders, is a vampire. When she and her friend, Jonah, try to prove it, they have a thrilling adventure and learn that things aren't always what they seem. Officer O'Malley is Turpin's standout character—his accent and personality are pure Irish-American cop! In addition to enjoying an exciting mystery, young listeners will learn about 1950s America. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Prepare to be charmed! Narrator Bahni Turpin is back to narrate this sequel to THE TRUE MEANING OF SMEKDAY. A couple of years after two alien species invaded Earth, Gratuity (Tip) Tucci is now 13, and J.Lo, her Boovish friend, longs to visit New Boovworld and reconcile with his fellow Boov. What follows is a madcap outer-space adventure, a political farce, and an endearing story of friendship. Turpin’s enthusiastic narration is genius. She gives voice to humans, aliens, a parrot, and a robot; handles Rex’s wordplay and the Boov’s muddled English; and creates her own sound effects with apparent ease and flair. Turpin's reading enhances everything funny, smart, clever, silly, and subtle about the storytelling. It’s an absolute listening delight. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Channie Waites celebrates hope with her narration of this moving story, which introduces listeners to a multigenerational family who participate in the Great Migration of African-Americans. Whether sounding serious, shy, or jubilant, Waites captures the feelings of the extended family in this story as they pack up and move from their beloved pine-scented South to pursue dreams of financial and personal freedom in the North. Her characterization of individual voices—from elderly grandfather to jump-roping girl—are especially wonderful, complementing the book’s fine illustrations. The musical background adds playful texture while suggesting a chronological progression through the years. This top-notch production includes a thoughtful author’s note, read by Woodson. J.C.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2015, Portland, Maine

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Jack Gantos concludes his Joey Pigza series with one last peek into Joey’s wild, wonderful brain. With Gantos narrating, the ride is breakneck, funny, and heart wrenching, with listeners holding on through every one of Joey’s zigs and zags. Joey struggles with attention deficit disorder and a chaotic family life, and he’s so full of love and good intentions that listeners can’t help rooting for everything to work out for him. Gantos gives voice to Joey’s every hope, worry, and stray thought as he cares for his baby brother and holds down the fort at home. It’s an utterly satisfying end to the series, and if Joey doesn’t have you in tears, the author’s note at the end just might. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Michael Crouch performs a suspenseful tale of precious moonstones, long lost twins, and seven million dollars. March is the son of a mastermind thief. After his father's death, he discovers he has a twin sister, and the two set out to pull off the biggest heist ever. Crouch paces his narration to keep listeners guessing. His masterful use of tone to portray character brings heart at just the right moments while keeping listeners on edge. Due to a prophecy about the twins, listeners are never sure if they’ll make it out alive, and Crouch uses the cliff-hanger chapter endings to his advantage to ensure continued listening. A fun, fast-paced listen, sure to please the entire family. S.B.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Curtis returns to early-twentieth-century Canada in this companion novel to ELIJAH OF BUXTON. In alternating chapters, JD Jackson voices Benji, an aspiring reporter and lover of the woods, and Kirby Heyborne voices Red, an Irish boy who lives in neighboring Chatham. Both narrators deliver the boys’ self-assuredness with relish, as well as their fear of encountering the “Madman of Piney Woods,” but they shine most in the voices of the adult characters. Jackson terrifies listeners by detachedly recounting the horrors of the Civil War as the Madman. Heyborne delivers a pitch-perfect Irish accent in the voice of Grandmother O’Toole.The care in both portrayals brings depth to Curtis’s theme of the varying ways hardships can shape or damage human beings. E.M.C. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Katherine Kellgren’s narration, along with delightful music, adds considerably to this Caldecott Honor-winning biography of primatologist Jane Goodall. Kellgren’s rhythmic delivery tracks the adventures of young Jane and her stuffed monkey, Jubliee. Kellgren’s reading is bright as Jane scurries into the garden, dragging the chimp behind her. Her tones turn pensive, the music somber, as Jane carefully observes nature. When Jane sneaks into her aunt’s chicken coop, Kellgren adds suspense through pauses as if to witness the miracle that a laying chicken performs for Jane. Soon, the reading and music move at a sprightly pace again, slowing only as Jane falls asleep. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Reformed thief and wannabe cowboy Leroy Ninker’s dream finally comes true when he teams up with a new horse. Arthur Morey narrates with the leisurely style and twang of a cowboy whiling away his time with a good story. Maybelline is an “equine wonder” who thrives on compliments and teaches Leroy a thing or two about thinking them up. Morey stretches out words, provides pregnant pauses, and emphasizes specific points—all with his tongue in cheek. He seems to relish rolling out the praise—“horse of my heart, sweetest and most delicate of all springtime blossoms”—with as much love as Leroy delivers them. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listeners will start grinning from the very first words of this production as narrator Dion Graham and author/artist Christopher Myers talk over each other, jockeying to introduce the story. Two young friends hit the basketball court to play a game of H.O.R.S.E. and trade trash talk—an impossible game that quickly moves beyond the court into the realm of the fantastic and all the way into outer space. Graham and Myers sound young and confident as the friends challenge each other to greater and greater feats. Myers's colorful collages offer plenty to look at (there's even an illustrated cameo by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson), and the bouncy soundtrack will make listeners want to move to the beat. The entire production is infused with infectious energy and good-natured competitive fun. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listening to narrator Chris Henry Coffey recount the escapades of young Ephraim and his unlikely compatriots in their quest to reveal the secret of Maine’s Water Castle estate is like having a storyteller of one’s own. The immediacy of each moment is clear: the sadness of seeing a once vital father ravaged by a stroke, the animosity that has festered over generations among the townspeople, the taste of Needham candy, and the thrill of pooling talents to effect change. Coffey keeps to a steady pace and uses only a slight pause or emphasis at key moments. Chapters alternate between the current day and the early twentieth century, creating a double mystery. Is there truth to the stories of a youth-extending water hidden underground? What brought the Crystal Springs resort to ruin? Listeners will be eager for answers. A.R. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Two dads, four boys, a Maine Coon cat, a dog, and an imaginary cheetah comprise the adventurous Fletcher family. Narrator Dan Woren inhabits each of the four Fletcher boys, keeping their characters clear. He’s especially convincing at expressing 5-year-old Frog’s innocence and Sam’s awkwardness around girls. He’s just as accurate in tracking the boys’ many moods, portraying Frog’s frustration at proving that his new friend isn’t imaginary and Jax’s discomfort at approaching their ill-tempered neighbor for a school interview assignment. Woren can switch personas instantly. The two fathers move in and out of the story as Woren portrays the warmth and tenderness they give to their four thriving boys. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Georgette Perna’s deft narration enhances Holm’s story of a generation gap gone haywire. How do you cope when your grandfather turns up as a teenager who becomes your babysitter and draws you into a daring B and E of his former science lab? Perna voices 12-year-old Ellie’s wacky adventures with glee. Her tones contrast well with the voice of Ellie’s exasperated mother, who doles out life lessons to her previously 70-year-old father, Melvin, now a teen. Even better is Perna’s delivery of Melvin’s mixed persona of adolescent know-it-all and senior curmudgeon. Perna’s exuberant storytelling takes the edge off the author’s slight didacticism about the wonders, and evils, of science. D.P.D. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Set in tsarist Russia, this story combines historical fiction and folklore and is told by a self-proclaimed “unreliable scribe” who writes from within a tower prison. Narrator Michael Page creates two girls—an earnest and believable Elena and a youthful, cultured Ekaterina—one peasant, the other privileged, yet so alike that their lives are exchanged with little notice. Great Aunt Sophia is haughty and imperious, while her mirror character, Baba Yaga the witch, is a capricious mix of lunacy, joy, and menace. Page especially shines as the story’s narrator. The character may be unreliable, but we believe his aged and patrician voice and hang on to his every measured word as he challenges us to ponder the nature of fate. L.T. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Neil Gaiman fans, rejoice! There are now TWO wonderful versions of THE GRAVEYARD BOOK to listen to. As narrator, Derek Jacobi does the heavy lifting in this full-cast recording, with other cast members voicing characters’ dialogue. It all fits together seamlessly as listeners are swept, entranced and intrigued, into the magical story. Robert Madge sounds perfectly wide-eyed, curious, and boyish voicing Bod, the boy raised in a graveyard by ghosts. Miriam Margolyes’s considerable talents shine as Bod’s nurturing adoptive mother, Mrs. Owens, and as his teacher, Miss Lupescu. And Julian Rhind-Tutt is deliciously grave as Silas, Bod’s mysterious guardian. The cast is uniformly excellent, giving broad or subtle performances as appropriate, and the overall effect is to enhance the sense of the graveyard as a community, and of the dangers lurking outside it. J.M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2015 Audies Winner © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Listener alert! Author and narrator Jon Scieszka will have you laughing out loud. When boy scientist Frank Einstein sets out to make a smart robot, hoping to win the Midville Science Prize and get his family out of debt, neither T. Edison nor drones nor clueless parents can stop him. Aided by Smartbots Klink and Klank and Grandpa Al, Einstein creates a smashing entry and also outsmarts his archenemy. The duo of Scieszka and Brian Biggs narrates with aplomb. Characters pop with personality as each narrator uses his vocal talents to create an ebullient and persevering Einstein, an ever optimistic and wise grandfather, and a too-big-for-his britches T. Edison. Not only is the wordplay droll, but the robot voices are animated to perfection. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Myra Lucretia Taylor’s dramatic performance successfully delivers the powerful message about freedom in this prose poem for children. During the Civil War, three slaves flee north to Virginia, where they’re protected as “contraband of war” and begin a new life. Taylor’s expert modulations in pacing and tone, along with breathless whispers in moments of suspense, capture the fear and heightened emotions of the escape. Smooth and confident articulation conveys the free men’s jubilation when the story culminates with the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation. This engaging and educational recording includes background on the story’s events and the significance of the Freedom Tree, in addition to a read-along. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Barbara Rosenblat gives a playful performance of this story about third-grader Judy Moody’s attempt to stay in a good mood for a full week. Rosenblat gives Judy an irrepressible voice as she tries to learn how to avoid her legendary bad moods by studying her compliant classmate, Jessica. Rosenblat accentuates the humor by creating goofy voices for Judy’s friends, who think she’s been taken over by an alien when she straightens her hair and starts wearing pink. Rosenblat’s voice for Judy’s ever present younger brother, Stink, hits just the right scratchy note between irritating and endearing. This funny, fast listen is a great choice for families, whether they’re new to the series or long-standing fans. A.F. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Fiona Hardingham’s energetic narration is the perfect partner for Durham’s outstanding fantasy debut. Recent strange happenings in the village of Drowning, coupled with Rye O’Chanter’s encounter with the supposedly extinct Bognoblin, have the villagers anxious for the return of the Luck Uglies. This secret society of men was exiled by Earl Longchance, who considers them wanted criminals and monsters. As Rye and her friends, Folly and Quinn, begin to unravel the labyrinth of secrets, legends, and lies that surround the village, they receive help from a mysterious family friend named Harmless, whose Irish brogue sparkles with mischief. Hardingham’s portrayals of the pompous Constable Boyle; the no-nonsense Mrs. O’Chanter; and the pouting Lottie O’Chanter help to raise this performance far above the norm. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Donna Jo Napoli has a gift for wading into a subject and turning research into storytelling that’s sure to engage children. Narrator Christina Moore makes Napoli’s accounts of ancient Egyptian myths even more accessible and enjoyable with her conversational tone and emphasis on emotions. Connection is crucial to the success of this broad and encompassing view of Egyptian mythology, and audio achieves it well. The varying tones of the author and narrator flow smoothly as the stories of 17 Egyptian gods and goddesses dramatize the culture of the ancient Egyptian world. The lyrical descriptions of this world combined with contemporary informal language engage listeners and transport them back to earlier times. S.W. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This is a perfect package—a poetic, educational story combined with beautiful illustrations and an excellent narration. The book features the animals and plants of Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Tom Chapin starts by reading the story, which is enhanced by soft, ear-pleasing sound effects: music from various instruments, wind rustling the native plants, and realistic animal noises. Then Chapin sings the story, and even though the tune is a familiar one, the Bateman/Chapin rendition is completely original and charming. The song is followed by more detailed facts on prairie flora and fauna. The simple elegance of this trifecta of story, illustrations, and audio makes for a pleasant, relaxing experience for children and their caretakers. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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WWII rages, and Uncle Sam asks, “Are you doing all you can?" Fifth- grader Hobie Hanson desperately wants to help bring his father home from the war, but is he willing to enlist his German shepherd, Duke, in the Dogs for Defense program? As Hobie, narrator Jonah Von Spreecken has an earnestness in his voice that fits this singular period in history when so many Americans were compelled to answer the call of duty to their country. He creates distinct voices for each of the story's many characters, and even does a passing job as Hobie's little sister. Von Spreecken is faithful to the period dialogue, easily transporting the listener to a simpler time in this novel of courage, sacrifice, and a beloved dog. Semper fi. L.T. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Jeremy Arthur gives a thoughtful performance of this fantasy adventure, perfect for tweens and teens. Everyone believes the legend that the Nethergrim was defeated years ago by the famed wizard Vithric and brave knight Tristan. But when children from the village start to disappear, whispers that the Nethergrim has returned start to spread. When Edmund's brother disappears, he knows he must do everything he can to save him. Arthur's deep timbre is a rewarding addition to this audiobook, giving it a magical sound. He creates a wide variety of characters, and his crisp, clean narration is well paced. This is perfect for listeners who enjoy historical novels with a touch of fantasy and magic. S.B.T. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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"She shimmied. She shook. Sparks flew.” Like Josephine Baker herself, Lizan Mitchell's narration dazzles with verve and vivacity. The story of Baker's uninhibited rags-to-riches life is told in poetic, often staccato, sentences that Mitchell delivers with gusto, punctuating the action in a volcanic life that "erupted into the Roaring Twenties." Though Baker’s life was often tumultuous and was marred by the practice of segregation, this upbeat presentation is matched by Mitchell’s theatrical performance. A haven from segregation, Paris was pivotal in Baker's life, and the frequent use of French phrases poses no problem for Mitchell, who delivers them flawlessly. The concluding Artist’s Note will leave listeners yearning for a look at the brightly illustrated companion book. L.T. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Delightful listening! A variety of narrators provides the voices of various neighbors who each experience a wandering cat in a different way. The cat drops by in that mysterious way cats can and then moves on. Little does it know that it fosters more than one friendship following a dramatic rescue. Each narrator takes his or her cue from the personality of the character being portrayed—a clipped-voiced librarian, a richly voiced and slow-paced elder gentleman, a reticent mother with a pleading daughter eager for a pet, a chuckling policeman, a hesitant and reminiscing homeless veteran, and a new widower who slides effortlessly from English to Spanish. Meet Stuart Little, Kitty Boy, Placido, Mooch, Dove, Mouse, and Regis. A.R. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Keith Nobbs’s narrative style is a perfect match for Mull’s latest fantasy adventure. When a group of unsuspecting sixth graders, led by Cole, visits Spooky Lane on Halloween, they’re kidnapped and taken to another dimension, where they’re sold into slavery. Nobbs captures the essence of each character so thoroughly that listeners will feel like they’re old friends, especially Cole, whose voice spans the emotional spectrum, giving him a true heroic presence. Also notable is the chipper tone of the talking Happy Face. Nobbs nimbly navigates the story’s roller-coaster pace. His dynamic performance is amplified by expertly timed sound effects and booming monster voices, all of which sets a high standard for future installments. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Rich Orlow narrates steadily and distinctly, letting the world of Albert Einstein reveal itself to young listeners. Albert was described by his parents as “so different, but dear.” A gift of a compass opened up the world; a childhood experience of watching sunlight and imagining a ride on a light beam spurred him on to a life of questioning. Listeners will find Albert “imagining, wondering, figuring, and thinking” while on his sailboat, playing his violin, or walking around town in his signature sweaters and baggy pants. The science of time and space had a genius on its hands, and Orlow also voices the enthusiasm of several scientists who are excited by Einstein’s teachings. The production concludes with an author’s note in which Orlow’s own passion for Einstein is evident. A.R. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Thirteen-year-old Piper is an orphan who struggles to survive by scavenging, repairing, and reselling artifacts from other worlds. Narrator Kim Mai Guest does an excellent job evoking Piper’s tenacity—not only to survive but also to one day get herself out of the lowly scrap town where she lives and make something of her life. Opportunity comes when Piper rescues a mysterious girl, Anna, and sets out to return her to the capital of the neighboring Dragonfly Territories. The breathy, somewhat ethereal tone Guest uses to portray Anna perfectly matches the scatterbrained, timid girl. Guest pulls listeners into the treacherous adventure as the girls are pursued by a dangerous man bent on seizing them. A suspenseful narration and a vaguely steampunk-inspired world make this a fun listen. J.M. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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How refreshing and fun to have a female superhero named simply M. Even better is narrator Sandy Rustin’s portrayal of the feisty 12-year-old. Until M is sent to the Lawless School, she thinks her dad is an art restorer, not an art thief. Rustin is adept at creating excitement and tension as the students get themselves out of sticky situations (much like they'll encounter as adult criminals). She's appealing as she depicts the first friends of home-schooled M's life, including computer geek Merlin and teachers such as Mr. Bandit, who teaches, "True criminals don't need weapons when they have brains." Young listeners will enjoy unraveling a multitude of secret codes and messages as they "help" M overcome her ever increasing challenges. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Nick Podehl’s enthusiasm and flair sweep listeners off on a marvelous audio adventure across Canada on the Boundless, the longest train in the world, containing all manner of humanity, a circus, and the treasure-filled funeral car of the recently deceased railway founder. Will Everett finds himself in possession of the key to the funeral car, with snarling villains in pursuit. Podehl aptly voices a brave and conflicted teenager who is determined to do the right thing. As narrator, he is a marvel at creating about a zillion characters ranging from “colony-class” poor folks to first-class rich, including grasping merchants, growling brakemen, Chinese workers, and even a roaring Sasquatch. Perhaps best and most mysterious is the Métis ringmaster, Mr. Dorian, slightly exotic and measured in tone, although angered by the cultural discrimination he faces on a daily basis. A.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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What a listening pleasure! Author-read narrations are not always successful, but in this case, Tim Federle is a star. He’s the heart and soul of 13-year-old Nate, who is passionate about his acting and knowledge of musicals but disheartened by his family and the bullies at school. He’s also unclear about his sexuality. To the supporting characters, Federle brings vocal nuances that deepen each personality—from an estranged aunt to casting directors and overbearing child stars and parents. Listeners will experience laugh-out-loud moments as Nate and his friend Libby secretly travel from Pennsylvania to New York City to attend auditions for ET, THE MUSICAL, just a one-day outing—or, not. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Odyssey Honor © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Dion Graham offers an exciting narration of this installment in the Infinity Ring series. Dak, Sera, and Riq fix breaks in time; this time their adventures take them to Baghdad. Their mission to save history requires them to prevent the world's greatest library from being destroyed. The story is full of high stakes, and Dion Graham provides an excellent pace. His contemplative tone adds to the thoughtful moments when Sera and Riq worry about their futures, and as the action picks up, his tense delivery keeps listeners on the edge of their seats. In addition, Graham seamlessly delivers the characters' accents. An exciting tale for all ages. S.B.T. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Cassandra Morris is the ideal narrator for an enchanting tale that abounds with "storytellers" of all ages. Midnight Gulch, Tennessee, is the latest home for Felicity Juniper Pickle, her wandering mother, her little sister, and their old van, which is called “Pickled Jalapeno.” Morris captures Felicity, who has the gift of seeing words shimmer above people, places, and things and enjoys verbally sharing her unusual skill. Diverse characters are enhanced by Morris, including crotchety old ladies; bossy, chain-smoking Aunt Cleo; and Felicity’s very first friend, wheelchair user Jonah, who endlessly spreads joy to others. This story of magical realism is a rare treat that expresses a deep love of words and books. It’s a perfect diversion from technologically oriented entertainments. S.G.B. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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It’s difficult to decide which is more fun to hear--the adorable Mr. and Mrs. Bunny or the endearing Madeleine and her offbeat hippie parents in this sequel to MR. AND MRS. BUNNY--DETECTIVES EXTRAORDINAIRE! The Bunnies and 9-year-old Madeleine reunite in England, where Mrs. Bunny wants to become queen and Madeleine hopes that her parents’ inheritance of a sweet shoppe will help her raise money for her college fund. The hippies’ accents, philosophies, and expressions are priceless. It's like taking a step back in time as the chapters alternate between humans and bunnies. Young listeners, as armchair travelers, will learn lots of tidbits about England’s culture, such as the British Museum, clotted cream, and, of course, royalty--especially the queen. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Be charmed as virtuoso narrator Katherine Kellgren shares 22 classic adventures of Peter Rabbit, Squirrel Nutkin, Benjamin Bunny, Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and more. In Beatrix Potter’s world, rabbits raid the farmer’s garden and do their best to avoid getting caught, and a hedgehog just might take care of the neighborhood animals' laundry. Narrating these stories, Kellgren sounds eminently British and appropriately old-fashioned. (“The Tale of Peter Rabbit” was first published in 1902.) Don’t mistake old-fashioned for slow, however; her narration is vigorous and fast paced, filled with character accents and songs and even the very authentic-sounding chitters of a squirrel and meows of an angry cat. Good fun. J.M.D. 2015 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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David Tennant, best known for his role as Doctor Who, brings a slew of Scottish accents to this high-spirited rendering of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III’s journey toward true heroism. Hiccup is the heir to the Hairy Hooligan Viking Tribe, but he must pass the dragon initiation program to become a full member. When Hiccup manages to catch the smallest dragon anyone’s ever seen, he and his new charge, Toothless, are relentlessly mocked. The taunting tones applied to Snotlout and his grunting sidekick, Dogsbreath, are a hoot. Tennant has a special talent for creating larger-than-life voices, particularly the lisping and stuttering of the dragon, Toothless, and the deep, malicious purring of the sea dragon. Music and ominous dragon roaring between scenes accentuate the performance. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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A full cast of voices brings this spooky, fun audiobook to life. The delight begins with the voices of the children who portray 12-year-old Jake and Lily, two friends who discover the world of “Always October,” where monsters rule. Kids and adults will marvel at the excellent and refreshing performances of these two young narrators, as well as every other perfectly cast voice. There are many monster voices, some of them funny and others utterly frightening. As Lily and Jake try to escape from “Always October” and save the human world, their exciting adventures are enhanced by sound effects and fitting music. This is a perfectly entertaining thriller for anyone who loves a good scare. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Stephen Briggs's sharp insight and sharper delivery are an excellent match for Pratchett's engrossing reimagining of the Pied Piper legend. Never missing a joke, Briggs deftly embodies the cunning, stubborn Maurice and his loyal, intrepid rats with an acuity that is befitting of this clever and profound text. His pacing captures the jaunty rhythm of the travelers' journey, while his tone balances the humor and menace as the band encounters danger and resistance. His dry, rumbling baritone fits the raspiness of the animals and the bumbling energy of the humans, and his personification lends resilience to the rats, who struggle with the burden of having thoughts and desires. Listeners will find themselves captivated by Briggs in this intriguing adventure. K.S.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Jeff Woodman's performance never flags as he continues with the truly epic Tapestry series. In this fourth installment, Rowan is on the brink of war. Woodman's narration of characters from all segments of society is delivered with relish—from the clipped tones of the bureaucratic demons to the bereft tones those fleeing war. While Woodman voices all the characters, from ogres to smugglers, with care, his characterization of hero Max McDaniels, the Hound of Rowan, is particularly endearing. Max must find a way to defy the odds against him as he ventures into enemy territory to secure information about a secret weapon. As Woodman brings Max’s trials to life, the listener is rooting for him all the way. A.M.P. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Maxwell Glick is as unflappable and nimble as Rump is in his quest to determine his true name and destiny. Listeners are treated to an expanded version of the well-loved folktale of Rumpelstiltskin, as told by the fellow himself. Listeners will find out who Rumpelstiltskin really is; meet his gran; hear the backstory of his parents, the greedy merchant/miller, and the gold-loving king; and experience a world of trolls, pixies, and witches. Glick’s Rump unfailingly projects his moods—curious, despondent, questioning, playful—as each juncture of the tale requires. His pacing is equally attuned to the story’s myriad twists. Glick’s narration moves along effortlessly, and supporting characters are full of personality. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Lincoln Hoppe’s narration is pure perfection in this story about “Little Man,” an 11-year-old boy with a stutter so severe that he can’t even say his own name. The story, set in 1959 Memphis, is a typewritten memoir of the summer he became a substitute paper carrier—which changed his life. Hoppe brings out Little Man’s endearing vulnerability and portrays the stutter with a tender ease and grace that will make listeners feel empathy and hope for the boy. All of Hoppe’s character voices are natural and true as Little Man’s encounters with his paper customers teach him so many lessons about disability, weakness, and strength. The afterword is read by author, and stutterer, Vince Vawter, making this an extraordinary listening and learning experience. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Newbery Honor © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This debut historical novel by celebrated actress Kondazian explores the inner struggles of Charlotte (Charley) Parkhurst who, thanks to the strange circumstances of her life, chooses to live as a man in California in mid-1850s. Robin Weigert is able to portray Charlotte as both a man and a woman with very slight changes in her voice. She clearly defines the interesting set of characters in Charlotte’s life with changes in pitch, tone, and regional accents. In addition to Charlotte’s inner struggles and gender switches, the story hints of other women in the Old West who could not be self-reliant, respected, and independent as females. This ambitious plot, well performed, is based on a true story. S.C.A. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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Jessica Almasy completely inhabits Clementine, a precocious third grader and budding artist. In addition to expressing Clementine’s generally upbeat nature, Almasy’s high tones and bouncy inflections capture the enthusiasm of the dynamic young protagonist as she flutters from one principle-inspired undertaking to the next. Diverse voices include chatter from Clementine’s tireless school chums and the befitting English accent of the Pilgrim woman of Plimoth Plantation. Almasy’s changing pace reflects the chaos when the schoolchildren become frantic about riding on smelly Bus 7 as well as the calmer times as empathic Clementine helps her friend Margaret deal with the anxiety of facing the rules made by older kids. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Miranda Raison’s narration of this ghost-cum-mystery-cum-horror story is a genre mash-up that provides plenty of drama. Raison adds even more with her renditions of the dynamic characters of Lockwood & Co., a team of psychic young adults who struggle to rid London of the malicious ghosts that have plagued it for 50 years. Raison’s portrayal of the witty, sometimes combative narrator, Lucy Carlyle, is compelling. Her co-worker, George, drips sarcasm, and the layered picture of Lucy’s boss, Lockwood, is both caring and opaque. Dialogue sizzles throughout their plans and adventures. The pacing is fast, and Raison amps it up, utilizing pauses and rushes to intensify a book that sets a high standard for the series to come. S.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Stephen Briggs, who has dramatized many of Pratchett’s books for the stage and audio, is the best choice to narrate this 1971 classic. First, there is only flatness; then come the carpet and tribes of carpet people. After their village is destroyed by the mysterious force called Fray, the Munrungs tribe treks across the carpet of hairs and dust to find a new home. Briggs effectively captures the the two disparate brothers—Snibril’s logical voice of reason and his older brother's comically oafish commands. Briggs also excels in his delivery of the frustrated banter between the Shaman Pismire, with his pearls of wisdom, and the obtuse former King Brocando, with his obnoxious bravado. Overall, Briggs provides the ideal narration for Pratchett’s trademark humor. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Author Jack Gantos picks up right where his Newbery Medal-winning DEAD END IN NORVELT left off, delivering young Jack's and elderly Miss Volker's increasingly wacky adventures in his own perfectly droll and deadpan voice. It's hard to imagine another narrator relating the story with the same familiar fondness—Gantos's reading is spot-on and never over the top. It's also hard not to laugh out loud. This time around, Jack and Miss Volker do get out of Norvelt, Pennsylvania, embarking on a road trip to pay their last respects to Eleanor Roosevelt and catch an infamous Norvelt murderer. Some of the situations defy belief—but listeners should simply shelve any doubts and hang on for this wild and hilarious ride. J.M.D. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Kim Mai Guest gives a sensitive and compelling performance of a story that depicts family issues at a watershed time in American history. Guest’s range of voices differentiates the characters’ personalities—twins Dana and Julia; their young cousin; and their brother, who has Down’s syndrome. After moving many times with her family, Dana wants to return to the life she has longed for in New York City, but she feels torn about leaving her family. Guest’s careful modulations also bring out the story’s 1960s setting and mores, which are often revealed in the characters’ interactions: In hushed tones Dana’s mother reminds their father to curb his drinking, and a slow, somber announcement informs the family of the assassination of JFK. Guest’s natural delivery complements the powerful story. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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This exuberant story, set in the 1890s, features the indomitable 12-year-old Mister Max, who solves mysteries to earn money after his parents go missing. Narrator Paul Boehmer depicts multiple characters of varying ages, classes, and accents, including Max's Grammie—a feisty librarian. Taking a cue from his parents, who are actors, Max dons various disguises and voices to solve his cases, which range from a lost child to a missing valuable spoon and stolen library books. Boehmer also enhances Voigt's superlative text, particularly the adjectives, which Boehmer makes sound just like they should, greatly adding to one’s listening pleasure. The conclusion leaves Max and listeners ready for the next installment in the search for his missing parents. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Dominic Hoffman serves as an outstanding educator while also capturing the voices of many of the victims of this tragedy. He also portrays Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who became involved with their case. In 1944, on the segregated naval base in Port Chicago, California, 300 black sailors were killed and many others injured when the munitions they were loading onto warships exploded. Three weeks later they refused to return to their unsafe duties. During a court-martial, they were found guilty of mutiny despite much evidence to the contrary. This audiobook offers young listeners a splendid opportunity to hear a trial in action and learn about the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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Author and narrator Enrique Flores-Galbis is a master of duality in this nuanced story of the Cuban revolution. His writing and narration are superb. In both, his humble style of storytelling is arresting. When revolution comes to Cuba, Julian is just a boy. He doesn’t even know what a revolution is. In leaving Cuba and losing his family, Julian finds new ways in which he’s both vulnerable and strong. Flores-Galbis’s voice embodies the contradictions of Julian’s experience. We hear that vulnerability in a soft, almost hesitant, voice; underneath is a quiet confidence. The pacing ebbs and flows as naturally as the tide between Havana and Miami as Julian figures out what is right and determines to do his part to help. A.M.P. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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One morning John and Marta find a young boy asleep on their porch. Narrator Heather Henderson’s soothing voice carries the listener through the unraveling mystery and beauty in this story about love, family, and cherishing moments and people. Henderson’s warm tones and measured pacing portray the relationship that develops between Jacob and the couple. While their keen bond with one another is conveyed with sincerity, the portrayals of the townsfolk are more lighthearted and farcical at times. Henderson’s stirring performance also reflects the poetic qualities the narrative takes near the end of the story as the ups and downs of life are revealed. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Youngsters will be captivated by James Clamp's exuberant narration of this story about 11-year-old Wild Boy, who was born covered with hair and who lives with a traveling freak show. When Wild Boy is accused of murdering one of his fellow carnies, his only chance of survival is to trust his own deductive skills and to accept help from his adversary, Clarissa, a young circus acrobat. Clamp's dramatic flair when reading the dialogue and his manipulation of pitch and volume add to the excitement as Wild Boy takes to the streets of 1841 London in an attempt to solve the case, which involves mad scientists, coppers, and a secret society. This Sherlock Holmes-type mystery is appropriate for the whole family. C.B.L. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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While the title may suggest these stories are for “guys,” listeners of both genders are likely to enjoy this collection of science-fiction short stories. Excellent narrators are perfectly matched with the 10 stories. Listeners will laugh at the antics of Percy Jackson and his friends, groan at the absurdity of shoes trying to take over the Earth, and shudder at the thought of an enslaved ghost boy. Some stories are laugh-out-loud funny, while others are downright creepy. A couple of them might be disturbing for sensitive youngsters. The narration of each story is sublime, with not a single misstep. The narrators set the appropriate tone for each piece, making for an “out-of-this-world” listening experience! M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Actress Phylicia Rashad beautifully proves the power of the word and the voice in this short biography of Coretta Scott King. Rashad’s clear, smooth voice delivers Shange's text with little embellishment. To praise the minimalism might mislead, as the spareness of text and expression emphasizes the power and poetry of this listening experience. The program shows a mastery of subtle effects—the soft sound of hands clapping, a wet footstep, or the swelling chorus of voices—creating a soundscape below Rashad's words. Paired with Kadir Nelson's illustrations of the hardcover book, this audiobook for all ages is a treasure and should not be relegated to the young. Coretta's epilogue biography, also read by Rashad, fills in some details and defines historical elements that enrich listener understanding. R.F.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2014, Portland, Maine

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With a varied pace and a veritable arsenal of spot-on accents, Andrew Scott takes to Dahl’s short stories with a deft hand and a playful, deliberate enthusiasm. His ability to rapidly juggle characters carries him gracefully through complex dialogue and heavily detailed monologues, and his meticulous pacing helps listeners to absorb the smallest of plot points and the most intimate of moments without sacrificing the momentum of each account. Distinction is key with short story collections, and Scott has a gift for developing rich characterizations in a short amount of time, giving an additional layer of life to the stories. His soft intonation escorts listeners through the text with ease. K.S.B. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Recounting the compelling life of Jacob Lawrence, narrator Myra Taylor wisely lets his story take center stage. She’s the unobtrusive narrator who steadily moves the story along. Listeners are free to marvel at the myriad aspects of the African-American painter’s development: his early interest in art at an after-school center in Harlem where his interest in painting was awakened, his experiences with the Coast Guard and the officer who encouraged him to paint murals of shipboard life, and, later, his navigation of the changing racial climate. At key junctures, Taylor emphatically underscores Lawrence’s belief that “it’s the little things that are big.” As the biography progresses, Taylor’s narration mirrors Lawrence’s own comfort with his status as “a great artist, period.” Listeners will relish the life of this artist and this production. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Versatile British actor David Walliams pulls out all the stops from his vocal repertoire to create a romping narration of this children's classic. There’s no voice too big or too small for him, whether it’s giving the Big Friendly Giant a deep, rumbling Cockney accent or endowing the queen of England with a prim and proper tone. Helping him along are well-placed sound effects sprinkled throughout—from the loud roars of evil giants to the soft tinkling of glass. The sounds enhance the wacky adventure, which only Roald Dahl could dream up. The four-plus hours whiz by with whimsy and inspired fun. Whether you’re a child or a child at heart, you’ll have a wopsy, splendiferous time. E.E. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The listener knows immediately that Lopex (Odysseus) is in charge of the ship PELAGIOS and its crew. His innate ability to lead reverberates from the booming voice of narrator Gerard Doyle as he commands the men of Ithaca on their journey home. The story is told from the perspective of a captured Trojan boy, Alexi, whose healing abilities make him a valuable slave. Danger and wonder await the crew as they encounter powerful characters, such as the lisping King Aeolus, who casually commands the winds, and sweetly enticing-sounding Circe, who can lull even the strongest of men into a false sense of security. The disdainful tone of the ship’s second-in-command, Yuri, is unmistakable as he mercilessly taunts Alexi. This second in Bowman’s mythological series will entrance both boys and girls. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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When you think of CHARLE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, it’s easy to think of the movies, with their over-the-top visual wackiness. But this audio production brings out the real magic of Roald Dahl’s writing. Narrator Douglas Hodge savors every scrumptious word as Charlie Bucket, destitute and starving, defies the odds by winning a golden ticket to tour Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Hodge pours the delicious descriptions of the factory into the listener’s mind with his enthusiastic yet subtle performance. His character voices are delightful, while the addition of understated sound effects adds to the mental imagery. Even the fantastical opening music is charming. This is a delightful performance of a well-known classic. M.M.G. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Outstanding performances and enticing musical accompaniments and sound effects capture the effervescent spirit of Roald Dahl’s characters in this quartet of stories. Chris O’Dowd narrates the title work, sporting a hearty accent for Mr. Badger while presenting diverse personalities for the three farmers who are trying to rid themselves of the cunning fox. Geoffrey Palmer narrates ESIO TROT with animated portrayals of Mr. Hoppy and Mrs. Silver, especially in the latter’s comical reading of an incantation. Stephen Fry offers a deep and resounding voice for THE ENORMOUS CROCODILE, along with plodding pacing that conveys the crocodile’s largeness and ridiculous attempts at disguise. In THE GIRAFFE AND THE PELLY AND ME, Hugh Laurie’s lively performance and vastly different voices for the window-cleaning trio, the boisterous Duke, and humorous, operatic Duchess provide the grand finale of this enchanting children’s collection. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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An unobtrusive narrator, Forest Whitaker has a firm and evenly modulated voice that underscores the Nelson Mandela’s determination throughout his life—from his days as a student to his twenty-seven year imprisonment and then his presidency of South Africa. The only one chosen to attend school at an early age, Mandela moved to Johannesburg for his education and witnessed South Africa succumbing to Apartheid government. From that point he became a champion of both freedom and reconciliation: “We must forget our terrible past . . . and walk the last mile to freedom.” Author Kadir Nelson delivers his author’s note, which provides additional details of Mandela’s life. The production concludes with an interview in which the author talks about his life, art, and Mandela’s importance, as well as his conviction that children should see themselves in the artwork of a picture book. A.R. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Listeners will need to hold on to their headphones as author DiCamillo and narrator Tara Sands treat them to a madcap adventure that bounces between quirky human characters and a squirrel with superhero dreams who also writes poetry. Ten-year-old Flora Belle Buckman witnesses said squirrel being disgorged from her neighbor Tootie Tickhams’s Ulysses Super-Suction Multi-Terrain 2000X vacuum cleaner. Sands’s narration is lively and fast paced. She takes on variety of personalities with gusto: among them, the determined Flora and her flappable mother, dramatic Tootie and her unexpected friend William Spiver, and the dreamy-voiced squirrel, Ulysses. Melodramatic music signals the story’s switch from the human world to the squirrel’s superhero fantasies. Relish the unexpected as Flora helps Ulysses blossom. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Bryan Kennedy deftly introduces listeners to friends River, Freak, and Fiona as well as to a sofa and a zucchini crayon hidden in the cushions. This unusual crayon leads them to Alf, the owner of the sofa, and to rambling, antiquated mansion. The trio's reactions to the existence of another world, sentient furniture, and the looming destruction of earth by invading stormtroopers are delivered with panache. Kennedy's renderings of Alf's friendly eccentricities, the sentient computer's companionable guidance, and the evil Disin's grating voice are especially delightful. No one does deadpan humor better than Bryan Kennedy, and the sound effects of the mansion provide perfect ambience. This wacky sci-fi romp is a great pick for a family road trip. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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A stirring performance by David Baker and Cynthia Bishop conveys the dramatic stories of two 11-year-old children who lived 10 years apart in war-torn South Sudan. Baker portrays the boy, Salva, with heartrending effectiveness. Skillful pacing and vocal modulation convey Salva’s terror and sorrow as he attempts to survive ruthless gunmen as well as dehydration, crocodiles, and lions on his dangerous trek to the safety of a refugee camp. By contrast, Bishop’s unrushed, almost meditative, narration brings out the girl Nya’s quiet resilience as she spends her day collecting water for her family. Sound effects highlight the thoughts of the characters, while a periodic drum beat and music set the scene of the African landscape. This production includes an author’s note as well as words by Salva himself, which echo the poignance of his story. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Did you know that Neil Gaiman can sound like a stegosaurus, a pirate, a volcano god, and even a bunch of green blobby aliens? Not only that, but he sounds like he's having an utter ball while he narrates, and it's impossible not to be swept up into the brilliant, batty fun. A father steps out at breakfast time to pick up some milk at the corner store, and when he takes rather a long time getting back with it, he offers his waiting children an explanation that's part HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, part DOCTOR WHO, and completely, deliciously, delightfully absurd. Gaiman IS that father enthusiastically sharing his improbable story, and giggles are guaranteed for all ages. J.M.D. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Arielle DeLisle and Mike Chamberlain share the narration of this charming novel about Mr. Terupt's first year teaching at a new school. The story is told by seven of his fifth-grade students, each one of whom has a unique personality—for example, one is shy, one is the class clown, and one is the new girl. DeLisle takes on the four girls, and Chamberlain, the boys; both create the appropriate voice and mood to match each student's situation. During the course of the school year, Mr. Terupt subtly brings out the best in each child, until an accident puts him out of commission. DeLisle and Chamberlain alter their characterizations to reflect the students' maturation as well as the changes they experience from what happens to their teacher. C.B.L. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Who better than Kate Winslet to narrate Dahl’s beloved children’s classic in its 25th-anniversary year? Winslet draws on her impressive experience to bring precocious Matilda and her crusade against insensitive and manipulating adults to new ears. Meet, or re-meet, Matilda’s obtuse family and battle-ax headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Rejoice as Matilda, with the guidance of her understanding teacher, Miss Honey, rises above her situation and provides a model of spunk and determination. In the narrator role, Winslet is straightforward, precise, and calm. She saves her panache for her characterizations. While Winslet’s Matilda is modestly soft-spoken, she scales her vocal register as the ranting Wormwood parents, booms as Miss Trunchbull, and breathily voices the adored Miss Honey. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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JD Jackson uses his wonderful baritone to place listeners firmly in 1898 Wilmington, North Carolina, with 11-year-old Moses and his family. Jackson’s narration evokes the slow pace of a warm Southern day. Moses spends his days as many boys do: playing with friends, fishing, and trying to stay out of mischief. When local white politicians become unhappy about the growing wealth and influence of blacks in their town, Moses’s life becomes violent and scary. Jackson performs a variety of Southern accents, portraying Moses’s scholarly father and sassy grandmother as well as arrogant former plantation owners and angry mobs. Jackson’s tone of voice, strong yet gentle, makes the harshness of the story easier to take. G.D. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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On a Louisiana plantation during Reconstruction, 10-year-old Sugar challenges the limits of freedom and the meaning of family as she befriends the owner's son as well as the recently arrived Chinese laborers. Narrator Bahni Turpin is a master of capturing emotion, making her a perfect fit for this coming-of-age story set during changing times. Simultaneously sensitive and rambunctious, Turpin's portrayal of Sugar is magnetic. Her high-pitched voice, smoothed by a Southern accent, propels the story forward. African and Chinese folklore figure prominently in the story, and Turpin is mindful of how timing and inflection make all the difference in the story’s moral revelations. A.S. 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Narrator Emily Woo Zeller inhabits her character wholly in this enlightening story of Ailin, a girl growing up in 1920s China. Zeller’s subdued, controlled voice conveys the societal rules, both spoken and unspoken, for women during this period. In high contrast is 9-year-old Ailin’s bold determination and defiance as she refuses to have her feet bound. Zeller’s varied tones provide a range of emotions expressed by family members—from her father’s understanding acceptance to her mother’s and uncle’s angry protests. Zeller’s restraint also highlights the outwardly calm obedience of Ailin’s sisters. Zeller’s young voice, smooth reading, and facile pronunciation of Chinese names further complement the story. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The I WANT MY HAT BACK read-along and CD is a satisfying experience worthy of repeated listening. One determined bear travels through his neighborhood querying friends as to the whereabouts of his lost red hat. The original and genuine response of each creature is a credit to the multiple narrators. Tone, speed, and inflection are used to provide distinctive personalities for the turtle, frog, snake, and rabbit. The accompanying orchestration complements the narration and provides both leisurely interludes as the bear seeks out his friends and extended time for the listener to examine the illustrations. An interview with Jon Klassen completes the production. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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As narrator, Lyle Lovett creates a mesmerizing bayou setting with his smooth and fluid reading. He aptly conveys the descriptive and down-to-earth quality of these interwoven stories about two raccoon scouts who maintain peace in their home on the swamp and 12-year-old Chap, who is trying to help his mother make ends meet with their sugar pie shop after the death of Chap’s beloved grandfather. While Lovett’s purposeful pacing reveals elements of the bayou’s quiet mystery, his voice is lively when he lets loose with the rousing sounds of the wildlife, such as the hissing of the snake, the shrieks of feral hogs, and the signature howl of DJ Coyote Jim as he bays greetings to radio listeners. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award, 2014 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Twelve-year-old Sophie Young, feng shui and Sun Tzu expert, and Grace Yang, her F.B.I.-obsessed friend, investigate the mysterious school counselor, Mrs. Agford, who Sophie is convinced has a secret that she’s hiding under her huge wig. Narrating in the first person, Amanda Philipson gives an effervescent performance as the enthusiastic and determined Sophie, who muddles her way through seventh-grade social dynamics with her peers and evades her parents to uncover the true identity of the suspicious Mrs. Agford. Philipson’s wide range of tones, pacing, and energy brings out the diverse personalities and emotions of the characters, as well as convey the humor and drama in the story as the girls learn about self-confidence, trust, and friendship. M.F. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Michael Hainey's fascinating memoir cum detective story, which explores the hidden aspects of family stories, is wonderfully served by Dan John Miller's matter-of-fact tone, which lets the straight-ahead prose shine. Hainey was just 6 when his father, a reporter, died of an apparent heart attack while out “visiting friends.” No more was said by anyone in the family. Hainey, who grew up to become a reporter himself, set out to uncover the truth about his father’s life and death. It’s an absorbing tale, well served by a reading that highlights the book's American-guy drive, while also being sensitive to the little-boy lost truth of any man whose father dies. A.C.S. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Celebrated actress Miriam Margolyes takes listeners on an extraordinary journey through the looking glass. With talent as deep as Lewis Carroll's imagination, Margolyes portrays everything from a bleating sheep shopkeeper to Humpty Dumpty. The familiar characters sound just as they ought to—Alice is innocent and polite, the Red Queen demanding and shrill. Minor characters get the royal treatment as well. Margolyes adds a gruffness to her tone that is appropriate for a talking goat and a haughtiness that captures a pugilistic unicorn. Even the personalities of the talking flowers bloom—the tiger lily sounds bold and cantankerous while the rose is soft-spoken and gentle. This wonderful performance is perfect for a queen—Red or White. M.D. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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Jack Spayd is pulled by his passion for jazz from Toronto's Depression-era slums, crosses continents, and mixes Las Vegas gambling and African diamonds in a splendid saga that spans half a century. This Australian author's last book has subtle shades of his famous THE POWER OF ONE. The life lessons for Jack Spayd resonate, and the lively historical scenes are memorable. In Humphrey Bower's narration, accents, genders, and nationalities appear fluidly and with total confidence. An occasional Canadian vowel or a quirky regionalism punctuates and individualizes the memorable characters, who often sport Dickensian names such as Miss Frostbite or Mr. Logical. Bower, the narrator of all of Courtenay's books, is joined at the hip with the author's storytelling. His mastery should put this and other works on listeners' “must" lists. R.F.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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This full-cast production enhances Hale’s engrossing story as the fantasy world of Bayern continues. Rin loves her forest home, but she follows her brother, Razo, to the city when her magical powers swirl out of control. Along with the queen and her magical friends, Rin confronts a vicious traitor. Especially noteworthy performances come from narrators Camille Cady-McCrea as Rin and Terry LeCass as Razo. While maintaining a measured pace, Cady-McCrea ably conveys Rin’s internal conflict. LeCass cleverly portrays Razo, whose ridiculous posturing and wiseacre personality create a good foil to the serious Rin. Production shows an equally high standard. In particular, the sound effect used for Rin’s thoughts is subtle, and twists of music seamlessly connect story segments. C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The seventh book in the Septimus Heap series brings a close to the story of the seventh son of a seventh son, Septimus Heap, apprentice to the ExtraOrdinary Wizard. Gerard Doyle, who has narrated the series since Book 2, brings a serious tone to the magical tale. As the main characters—Septimus, a wizard-in-training, and Jenna, a queen-to-be—enter a new stage in their lives, the author brings back characters from the previous six books. Doyle meets the challenge of narrating the wide range of characters with his usual flair—from the sharp voice of ExtraOrdinary Wizard Marcia Overstrand to the deep rumbling of Alchemist Marcellus Pye. Doyle’s skill is evident with both the male and female voices. Listeners will be left eager for Sage’s next series, which is promised in the book’s conclusion. E.N. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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BALLET FOR MARTHA is an audiobook in three parts. In Part 1, narrator Sarah Jessica Parker tells Jan Greenberg’s story of the artistic, musical, and balletic collaboration that resulted in the Appalachian Spring ballet. Listeners may miss the illustrations that accompany the print book but will gain the ability to hear Aaron Copland’s iconic music. Parker places her words with care—as if each word were a step in the dance. Her reverential, almost magical, narration epitomizes Martha Graham’s principle of truth in movement. In Part 2, the Seattle Symphony performs excerpts from Copland’s composition. In Part 3, conductor Gerard Schwarz narrates biographical information about the creators of the ballet. This work deftly utilizes the audiobook format to provide an enhanced experience for listeners. C.A. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Step into THE TIME MACHINE and be transported to the future with Sir Derek Jacobi guiding the way. This revered British actor (listeners may recognize his voice from the BBC’s "Cadfael" or "I, Claudius") is a most delightful narrator. Throughout the story his cheerful tone invites the listener into the smoking room of the time traveler as he recounts his journey. Jacobi’s attention to the nuances of the text makes his narration especially engaging. He is consistent in measure and clear in elocution. Wells wrote the novel as an account of the time traveler’s adventures, and Jacobi’s subtle style lends itself effectively to the storytelling aspect of Wells’s prose. D.M.W. 2014 Audies Finalist, SYNC 2014 © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Lawrence returns to the Wild West for Pinkerton’s second adventure. In spite of several foibles and eccentricities, newly orphaned 12-year-old PK has opened a detective agency, confident that clients will soon be clamoring for their cases to be solved. But there’s also a thorn in her side: People are confounding and impossible to read. Today, we call it Asperger’s, but back in the Wild West it had no name. T. Sands narrates PK’s story with a precise delivery that includes meticulous attention to punctuation, vocabulary, and detail. Sands draws in the listener, maintaining a careful balance between PK’s dedication to solving her case and her offbeat comic relief. Listeners will admire PK’s confidence and spunk even as they chuckle at the obvious missed clues. N.E.M. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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The Infinity Ring's time-traveling trio find themselves in 1850 in a nation divided over slavery. The Underground Railroad is being sabotaged, and it's up to Dak, Sera, and Riq to fix the break in time. Dion Graham narrates with a deep voice that brings the historical figures to life. A nice touch to the audiobook is the addition of original songs that are sung in the story. While part of a series, the story stands well enough on its own. The fast-paced, high-stakes adventure makes for a perfect family listen. S.B.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Music is interspersed throughout this standout audio production, allowing the listener to hear young Paulo's first squeaky attempts at playing scales and to feel his parents’ anguish as they are forced to play Mozart concertos for the SS during WWII. Whether it's a full orchestra, a single violin, or simply the rhythmic snipping of scissors, the music itself becomes a character in this moving story. Morpurgo does an outstanding job narrating his own work. He adds a hoarseness to his voice when portraying an aging violin tutor and an innocent excitement to it when depicting his young student. In a minor role, Alison Reid, as the young journalist sent to interview adult Paulo, comes across just as she should—nervous and reverential. M.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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“Believe, believe, believe.” Not since THE POLAR EXPRESS have we had such an opportunity to believe in the mythological characters of childhood—the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Santa. With Gerard Doyle’s captivating telling, we do envision Queen Toothiana, E. Aster Bunnymund, and Nicholas St. North through Joyce’s glorious imagination. Doyle makes just the right choices with restrained but distinct character voices—the narrative is never overshadowed by these larger- (or smaller-) than-life creatures. His perceptive timing and emphasis are gifts to the listener. The wordplay is delicious, and the whole audio experience will send families to Joyce’s illustrated books—while keeping Doyle’s narrations as companions. (And the fall animated film RISE OF THE GUARDIANS will bring more fans.) R.F.W. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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This audiobook combines the intensity of a film noir--specifically, Dashiell Hammett's MALTESE FALCON--and the humor of a screwball comedy. Nick Diamond is only 13, but he's miles away smarter than his big brother, Tim, a private investigator. After Tim is hired by a mysterious man to guard a box of maltesers (malted milk candies), every criminal in Britain starts hunting the brothers. Nickolas Grace narrates with a wonderful sly tone that lets listeners in on the Monty Python-esque jokes. His characters are delightful--quirky, animated voices recall the best of 1940s cinema. Horowitz writes as though the story were a collaboration of John Huston and Billy Wilder, and Grace's performance is pure joy. G.D. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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Baseball enthusiasts—especially Boston Red Sox fans—will delight in listening to Ritter’s story. It’s the start of the Red Sox’s 100th anniversary year. Twelve-year-old “Stats” Pagano, a fixture at his father’s hot dog stand outside Fenway Park, assists pitcher Billee Orbitt in his quest to determine the cause of the team’s, and his own, early season slide. James Colby is an unobtrusive narrator. He breezes through the Red Sox lore and brings the story’s drama to life through the earnestness of Stats, the twang of eccentric Orbitt, the intensity of brother and exceptional shortstop Mark, and the Boston accent of Pops Pagano. Neither the family’s misfortune nor Stats’s heart defect derails Colby’s outstanding performance of Ritter’s ode to baseball and friendship. The concluding interview with the author offers insights into baseball, his inspirations, and his writing craft. A.R. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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A chorus of voices welcomes listeners to Walter Dean Myers's and Christopher Myers's meditation on what it is to be American. Poems and quotes are delivered by a talented cast of narrators that reflect the diversity of the United States. Taken together, the words, thoughtful performances, snippets of music and sound effects, and illustrations form a moving and inspiring whole, painting an authentic and inclusive picture of a complex, ever-changing nation. This is an important audio program, and one that's ideal for hearing and reading together—as a family or in the classroom—and for inspiring discussion and sharing personal experiences. A foreword, read in the author's own deep voice, explains his impetus for writing WE ARE AMERICA ("No words here have been penned lightly, no flag waved mindlessly. This is simply my truest feelings for my country, my tribute to America."), and appendices at the end, also narrated, put the quotes in historical context and identify the people and events in Christopher Myers's evocative, mural-like illustrations. J.M.D. 2013 Audies Finalist © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine

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”Chomp” is what happens when an animal takes a hunk out of its "owner." Wahoo and his dad, Mickey, have had many such chomps because they’re animal wranglers—guys who loan their menagerie to TV and movie producers. Narrator James Van Der Beek delightfully captures the unique Cray family; Derek Badger, star of “Expedition Survivor”; and the people involved in so-called reality television. This behind-the-scenes look at reality TV includes the terrific Hiaasen trademarks: humor and ecological education, including attempts to preserve Florida for future generations. Along the way, listeners are treated meet an array of Florida denizens, Hollywood types, and the Aussie pretender Badger—who’s anything but a nature lover. Adults will also enjoy and learn from one of Hiaasen's best novels yet. S.G.B. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine

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