Showing posts with label audiobooks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label audiobooks. Show all posts

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Ten outstanding audiobooks (ages 4-18)

Is your family taking a long drive this winter? Consider listening to an audiobook together, letting it take you on an adventure, laugh together or learn about something new. You'll notice that I'm including three memoirs here -- I especially find listening to some tell their story on audio particularly inspiring.

Try downloading e-audiobooks through your public library for free; check if your library uses OverDrive, Axis 360 or Hoopla Digital.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah: Comedian Trevor Noah narrates his memoir, sharing his harsh experiences growing up in South Africa in the final years of apartheid and the chaotic aftermath as the son of a white Dutch father and a black Xhosa mother. Listeners get to hear Noah tell these stories in his South African accented English and several other South African languages. He is engaging, funny and relatable, while also delivering thoughtful and perceptive social criticism about race, gender and class. (ages 13 and up)

Dominic, by William Steig, narrated by Peter Thomas: As Dominic leaves home in search of adventure, young listeners will be captivated by this delightful hero’s journey. Dominic bumbles his way through his journey with curiosity, goodwill and a solid sense of right and wrong as he makes friends, helps others in need and battles the Doomsday Gang. (ages 6-9)


Dory Fantasmagory, by Abby Hanlon, narrated by Suzy Jackson: Dory (called Rascal by her family) wants to play with her big brother and sister, but they complain that she's a pest. Narrator Suzy Jackson captures Dory's 6-year-old voice, with a full range of enthusiasm and emotions. Families will recognize themselves in Dory's attention-getting strategies, her mom's exasperation or her siblings' bickering. A joyful, funny celebration of imagination and resilience. (ages 4-9)

Track series: Ghost, Patina, Sunny & Lu, by Jason Reynolds, narrated by Guy Lockhart, Heather Alicia Simms: Ghost is an all-time favorite, and I've loved the audiobooks for the rest of this series. Guy Lockhart captures the emotions and voice of each different character, with energy and enthusiasm. I especially appreciate how he balances the humor with the darker moments in each book. I've just started listening to Lu, and his swagger and confidence is perfect. Heather Simms captures Patina's many different moods, moving from sassy to tender with ease. All together, these are outstanding audiobooks--"for real for real", as Lu says. (ages 9-14)


I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope, by Chessy Prout: As a freshman at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, Chessy Prout was sexually assaulted by an upperclassman. In her raw and honest memoir, Prout shares her experience of assault and the subsequent journey with the tumultuous trial, media attention and search for healing and change. As I read this, I was particularly angered by the way the school resisted Chessy's search for justice and struck by how the legal system does not help our young people find the resolution they need. A powerful memoir. (ages 13-18)

Like Vanessa, by Tami Charles, narrated by Channie Waites: Eighth grader Vanessa Martin dreams of winning her school’s beauty contest, despite feeling too fat, too dark and too shy. Her spirits soar with Vanessa Williams’ historic win as the first black Miss America. But the journey is hard -- will her talented singing shine? Or will her doubts weigh her down? Channie Waites’ narration brings Vanessa’s worries, laughter and grace to life, and her voice sparkles with magnetic charm. (ages 10-14)

The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo: Elizabeth Acevedo shines narrating her debut novel, using her talents as an award-winning slam poet to bring passion and life to Xiomara’s story. A first-generation Dominican-American, Xiomara struggles balancing her mother’s strict Catholicism with her own desire to find her place in the world. Writing poetry helps Xio come into her own, channelling her feelings, worries and questions. Acevedo’s poetry is beautifully crafted and the audiobook brings the passion and pacing of the rhythmic free-verse poems to life. (ages 14-18)

Proud: Living My American Dream, by Ibtihaj Muhammad: U.S. Olympic fencing medalist, Ibtihaj Muhammad shares her inspiring memoir, showing how faith, hard work and determination helped her reach her goals. She frankly talks about the many obstacles she faced, yet she comes across as both humble and realistic. She conveys the excitement of winning, and the frustrations and self-doubt she faced. Even though I know nothing about fencing, I couldn't put this down. Ibtihaj is a true American hero. (ages 10-16)

Refugee, by Alan Gratz: Gratz alternates the stories of three children from different periods of time, each of whom are fleeing their homes in search of refuge. Josef is escaping persecution from Nazis in Germany during World War II. Isabel and her family are fleeing Cuba in 1994, escaping the riots and unrest under Castro's rule. And Mahmoud's family flees Syria in 2015 after their home was bombed. These parallel stories are engrossing and compelling. The structure keeps the suspense high, and helps readers see how each character must cope with extreme stress, separation and loss. Gratz uses historical fiction at its best to help readers understand global issues in a way that inspires hope and empathy. (ages 10-16)

The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, narrated by Jayne Entwistle: My students have particularly loved this audiobook and its sequel, The War I Finally Won, finding the story of Ada inspiring as she realizes how she's able to overcome many odds stacked against her. As the story opens, ten-year-old Ada has a clubfoot and is kept locked in her family's one bedroom apartment in London, during World War II. Ada practices making herself walk, so she and her younger brother, can escape and join a train of children being evacuated to the countryside. Jayne Entwistle's narration brings Ada's complexities to life, with her layers of distrust and strength, courage and doubt. (ages 9-12)

Thursday, September 20, 2018

I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope, by Chessy Prout (ages 13-18)

With the news cycle focusing on Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, I've been thinking about consent and rape culture, especially with high schoolers. This summer I listened to Chessy Prout's powerful memoir I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope, which she narrates herself. I highly recommend this for teens, as an important personal perspective as they consider these issues.
I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor's Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope
by Chessy Prout, with Jenn Abelson
read by Chessy Prout
Simon & Schuster Audio / Margaret K. McElderry, 2018
Amazon / Your local library / OverDrive audiobook preview
ages 13-18
As a freshman at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, Chessy Prout was sexually assaulted by an upperclassman. In her raw and honest memoir, Prout shares her experience of assault and the subsequent journey with the tumultuous trial, media attention and search for healing and change.

At the end of her freshman year, a senior by the name of Owen Labrie lured and assaulted Chessy as part of a “Senior Salute” ritual at the school. Prout has cowritten her account with journalist Abelson. I especially appreciated the way she shares about her life before and after the rape, providing context for her experience both at school and with the legal system.

As I read this, I was particularly angered by the way the school resisted Chessy's search for justice. The case was turned over to the police and the public defender, and Chessy did find important allies. But I was struck by how the legal system does not help our young people find the resolution they need. She was  I so wish that Chessy's school and community had used Restorative Justice practices.

I've been inspired by The Restorative Justice Project at Impact Justice. This practice helps communities "address harm through dialogue among those most impacted. Restorative justice brings together those who have harmed, their victims, and affected community members into processes that repair harms and rebuild relationships."

Chessy narrates the audiobook, balancing clarity with personal feelings, giving voice to her experience. She conveys her commitment to activism and justice for those who have experienced sexual assault.

I recommend this memoir for both middle schools and high schools, as an important component raising awareness about the importance for consent. Today, I was struck by the podcast The Daily, which interviewed Caitlin Flanagan, a writer for The Atlantic, about her assault in high school. What's especially notable is that the high school boy apologized to Ms. Flanagan two years after he assaulted her, asking for forgiveness. This enabled her to move beyond this traumatic event.

Chessy's memoir has an important place in the debate today around sexual assault, consent and our justice system. Please share this with teens in your lives. I highly recommend I Have the Right To for both middle schoolers (especially 8th graders getting ready for high school) and high schoolers. I think that many 13 and 14 year olds are ready to explore the emotional complexities and realities that Chessy describes. The review copy came from my local library, through OverDrive. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Dominic, by William Steig -- adventure, heart and humor for family listening (ages 6-9)

Are you setting off on an adventure this summer? Try listening to Dominic, by William Steig, and you'll find a story full of adventure, heart and humor--perfect for family listening.
Dominicby William Steig
narrated by Peter Thomas
Listening Library, 2009
Amazon / Your local library
ages 6-9
Dominic is a dog in search of his fortune. He leaves his home, taking only his hat and his piccolo, and along the way he meets many animals, developing new friends as he goes. My children were captivated by Dominic's story, as he bumbles his way along, searching for - well, he doesn't quite know what. Dominic learns about the world and himself as he makes new friends and outwits the notorious Doomsday gang.

Originally published in 1972, this timeless story has a folktale feel, full of charm, heart and a bit of magic. One of the interesting things I found myself wondering is what made Dominic so determined to defeat the Doomsday gang. Was he getting revenge for the way they had tricked him, or was he trying to make his world a safer place for his friends?

The length of this story makes is a good choice for a broad age range. While 3rd graders and older will get the most out of this rich story, young children enjoy it as well. William Steig wrote many of my favorite classic picture books: Sylvester and the Magic PebbleDr. DeSoto, and The Amazing Bone. His language is rich and imaginative, perfect for family listening.

The review copy came from our public library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Gone, by Michael Grant: free this week on SYNC Audiobooks (ages 12+)

Imagine all the adults in your life suddenly disappear. Isn't that every teen's fantasy? Leave me alone. I know how to take care of it all by myself! That's where Gone starts, and oh what a ride it is. I highly recommend it to any teen who loves science fiction--my only caveat is that it's a long book, so you have to be ready to dive in.
Gone, by Michael Grant
narrated by Kyle McCarley
Tantor Media, 2016
ages 12 and up 
Starting today, Gone is free through SYNC Audiobooks for Teens. SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+. Gone will be available July 20-26th through the Overdrive App.
Each week, 2017 SYNC is giving away two complete audiobook downloads--pairs of high interest titles, based on weekly themes. From July 20 – July 26, they're focusing on dystopian fantasy novels for teens:
Gone sucked me in from the very beginning. I was caught - completely immersed in this imaginary world where the kids are in charge. The grownups have all completely disappeared. The kids who are 13 and 14 are the oldest kids around, and so have to start figuring things out.

What do they do with kids who are hurt? What about the daycare center full of babies and toddlers without any teachers? What about the kids who are raiding the grocery stores? The excitement quickly turns to fear as a fire starts in a building near the daycare center.

The kids soon realize that they are completely by themselves without computers or cell phones, and without any sign of rescue. They are trapped inside a force field barrier that surrounds the town, and whatever caused this is also causing mutations in birds and animals - along with some strange powers in some of the children.

I originally read Gone 8 years ago, and the excitement has stayed with me. I'm looking forward to listening to this again. Make sure you download your copy between July 20-26 through the SYNC website and the Overdrive app.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Downloading audiobooks for you & your kids

Do you listen to music on your phone or tablet? Did you know that you can download audiobooks and listen to them the same way? You don’t have to carry around a box of CDs any more. Here are the ways that I’ve had the best experience:

Audible.com has a vast collection of audiobooks, for children and adults. Audiobooks for children cost between $10 and $20, depending on the length. While this might seem expensive, I would argue that $15 for 7 hours of entertainment is good value, especially if it can develop a love of books.

The best feature of the Audible books is that my phone automatically remembers where I paused listening to my book. Even if I listen to music or another podcast, when I go back to my book - it remembers! I've even found that I can skip or rewind by chapter. They have an extensive selection for kids and young adults.
Your school library: Ask if your school provides access to downloadable audiobooks. Berkeley Unified School District subscribes to Tales2Go for all of our elementary school students and teachers. Tales2Go streams audiobooks to listeners' devices at school or at home. They have over 6,000 titles available. Students have unlimited access to titles, so there's no waiting for a book to become available. This summer, I've listened to Harlem Charade through Tales2Go and loved it.

Your public library: I borrow e-audiobooks through my public library using a variety of different providers. Overdrive, Hoopla, and Axis360 all provide services that my local libraries use. Your library subscribes to these services; you download the free app and sign in with your library card.
Using Axis360 through the San Francisco Public Library, I was able to download How Dare the Sun Rise, a new YA memoir by Sandra Uwiringiyimana. and my daughter downloaded The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. It took less than 15 minutes from start to finish. It was a smooth, easy process. Unlike borrowing CDs from the library, there are no late fees; when your book is due, your access stops. You can borrow it again later. For popular titles, you might need to place a hold -- but it's easy to do through your computer.

SYNC Audiobooks for Teens: SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+, sponsored by AudioFile Magazine and delivered through Overdrive. SYNC is giving away two complete audiobook downloads a week - pairs of high interest titles, based on weekly themes, from April through August.

Have fun, and let me know if you have any luck downloading audiobooks. I'm always looking for good books to listen to!

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, by Pablo Cartaya--smooth, layered & passionate with just a little sass (ages 9-13)

Like a great Cuban meal, Arturo Zamora is smooth, courageous and passionate, with just a little sass to let you know you can't push him around. This debut novel from Pablo Cartaya excels as a layered portrait of a young teen standing up for his family, discovering his passions for social justice and finding the courage to tell a girl that he really likes her.
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
by Pablo Cartaya
Penguin // Listening Library, 2017
Amazon / Your local library
Google Books preview
ages 9-13
*best new book*
Every Sunday, 13-year-old Arturo joins his extended Cuban-American family at their restaurant La Cocina de la Isla. When a shady land developer threatens to put up flashy high rise condos, Arturo joins forces with his cousins and friends to fight back. Check out these great opening lines:
"I'm officially resigning from love. Time in a cell will do that to a kid. For the record: I didn't do it. Well, I didn't mean for what I did to blow up in my face. This should have been the best night of my l ife. I was going to save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud... Instead I'm locked in a small room that smells like chorizo and stale popcorn while my archenemy continues to brainwash the community with reggaeton and free sunscreen."
Kids will love the way Arturo can find the courage to go up against the flashy real estate tycoon, but get completely nervous when he wants to tell a girl that he really likes her. They'll also relate to how important Arturo's family, neighborhood and culture are to him. Arturo's voice is distinctive and authentic. I love the way my friend Brenda Khan describes in her review at Prose & Khan:
"Reading it was like being enfolded into Abuela's warm hug. It was like meeting a family for the first time but feeling like I've know them forever. Arturo's voice is earnest and awkward and at times, hilarious but always genuine."
I highly recommend the audiobook. Cartaya narrates his debut novel with humor, grace and ease -- delightfully navigating Arturo’s awkwardness, humor and conviction as he develops his first crush and recognizes the power of his words in fighting for his family’s restaurant. Listen to this sample of the audiobook:

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Penguin Random House and Listening Library, and I have already purchased several more copies. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Audiobooks for teens: June is Audiobook Month (ages 13-16)

What draws teens into a story more than anything? Voice. They want to read about a teen that's going through intense experiences--whether it's realistic fiction or fantasy. There are many brilliant YA audiobooks; I'd just like to share a few of my favorites. Think of it as a sampling, and see if anything strikes you as interesting.

Contemporary issues through fiction

As racial issues and gun violence continues to plague our communities, teens want to read and think about how these affect individual people. 

The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, is absolutely outstanding--riveting, powerful and thought-provoking. Over spring break, sixteen-year-old Starr is the only witness to her friend's fatal shooting by a police officer. As she returns to school, she must navigate the worlds of her poor, predominantly black neighborhood and the wealthy private high school she attends in the suburbs. This is an intense story, even more so with Bhani Turpin's evocative narration that pulls listeners right into Starr's fight to find her voice.

All American Boys, by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely, also explores the impact of police brutality, alternating between the perspectives of a black high school boy and a white boy at the same school. Two talented narrators portray these different points of view, as these teens are involved in a complex situation.

Gripping fantasy

Many teens love reading fantasy, both as a way to escape but also a way to contemplate "what if..."

In Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, we see Europe on the cusp of World War I--but it isn't quite the world we know from history books. The Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germans have Clankers, huge manmade steam-driven machines with guns, but the British are Darwinists who harness fabricated animals to wage war. Alan Cummings nails the different accents, as we get pulled into the excitement of battles and intrigue.

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater, is a gripping fantasy that focuses on the Scorpio Races, where riders try to master Water Horses--carnivorous horses that are captured from the ocean. I was totally sucked in by the alternating narration, as I felt both Sean and Puck's yearning for a better life, determined to try to risk it all to win The Scorpio Races.

Modern romance with a twist

Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell, is a nuanced, compelling story of first love. The narrators bring alive the inner voices of both Eleanor and Park as they struggle with family, school and their own complex feelings. 

In Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green and David Levithan had me laughing out loud and cringing at the same time as I followed two boys, both named Will Grayson, and their quests to survive high school, find friendship, and grow up--whatever that means. Witty, cynical and irreverant, this book is definitely for older teens with its snarky jokes about sex, relationships and life.

Free audiobooks through SYNC Audiobooks for Teens

SYNC is a free summer audiobook program for teens 13+ and these are two titles I'm especially looking forward to listening to this summer. Each week, listeners can get two free audiobook downloads, provided through the OverDrive app. Check out the full schedule here.

Between Shades of Gray (available August 3-9) is a moving historical fiction novel that centers around the persecution of Lithuanians under Stalin's rule in World War II. Fifteen year-old Lina is forced to go to a Siberian labor camp with her mother and young brother. They survive the harrowing journey on the crowded, dirty train car to find themselves in the coldest reaches of Siberia.

Shadowshaper (available August 10-16) is a vibrant urban fantasy that I can't wait to listen to. Here's the publisher's description: "With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one -- and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family's past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come."
Every day this week, I am sharing audiobooks for different ages. I'm also happy to offer a giveaway sponsored by the Audio Publisher’s Association June in Audiobook Month celebration. Winners will receive a pair of earbuds and 3 free audiobook downloads from Audiobooks.com! There’s an easy entry form at the bottom of this post.

Click the Rafflecopter form below for an easy entry. Enjoy listening and sharing.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The review copies come from my personal and school libraries. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Nonfiction audiobooks for children & teens: June is Audiobook Month (ages 7-14)

I have loved listening to nonfiction audiobooks and know many adults who find them compelling listening. But I have not had as much experience with kids listening to nonfiction audiobooks. These books are terrific in both audio and print form, and I highly recommend trying them with your children.
Perhaps you might think about trying these with your family as a way to expand beyond your usual reading and listening. Explore a period from history or learn about animals with your children and broaden your horizons!

Nonfiction for children (ages 7-10)


In Harvesting Hope, narrator Robert Ramirez brings a strong, clear voice to Cesar Chavez's inspiring story of courage and resistance. If you have animal lovers, definitely try the National Geographic chapter books with stories of animals helping in all sorts of ways--Dog Finds Lost Dolphins is my favorite. Island Treasures is Alma Flor Ada's memoir of her childhood growing up in Cuba--her stories of grandparents, aunts and uncles are full of heart, warmth and gentle humor.

Nonfiction for tweens & teens (ages 10-14): 

These gripping audiobooks will introduce tweens and teens to history in its complexities, full of drama and challenges. Kadir Nelson's Heart and Soul, with Debbie Allen's masterful narration, shares the story of America and African Americans, through the voice of a grandmother sharing her people's history. Steve Sheinkin's Bomb shows how the atomic bomb was developed, as he weaves together threads of scientific development, military plots and espionage in a dramatic, suspenseful story. Code Talker is the intense story of the Navajo marines who fought in the Pacific theater of World War II, and their invaluable contributions fighting and saving lives, using their language which was an unbreakable code.
Every day this week, I will share audiobooks for different ages. I'm also happy to offer a giveaway sponsored by the Audio Publisher’s Association June in Audiobook Month celebration. Winners will receive a pair of earbuds and 3 free audiobook downloads from Audiobooks.com! There’s an easy entry form at the bottom of this post.

Click the Rafflecopter form below for an easy entry. Enjoy listening and sharing.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The review copies come from my personal and school libraries. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Fantasy and realistic fiction for longer listening: June is Audiobook Month (ages 8-12)

I’ve seen first-hand how audiobooks bolster students’ confidence and reading skills. They enjoy reading, and this makes them want to read more. But even more so, I’ve experienced how listening together creates a shared reading experience.

As we head into summer, spend some time trying out audiobooks, listening together with your children. June is Audiobook Month, and as part of that celebration I'd like to share some of my favorite audiobooks for children. Please make sure you see the giveaway at the bottom of the post.

Fantasy for longer listening (ages 8-12): Many families love being whisked away into a fantasy world. Jim Dale is masterful narrating the Harry Potter series, but our love for fantasy extends far beyond Hogwarts.

Adam Gidwitz brings humor and adventure to his take on classic fairy tales in A Tale Dark and Grimm. Skullduggery Pleasant also combines this same dark humor with fantasy and adventure in this terrific fantasy. Monster's Ring prompts kids to consider what they would do if magic suddenly let them get the upper hand over their bullies. Horizon is the beginning of a great new fantasy series with a science fiction twist.
Realistic fiction for longer listening (ages 8-12): These stories pull you into characters' lives, letting you see and feel what they go through. They are absolutely absorbing and heartfelt.
Ghost is a huge favorite in Berkeley, winning our district-wide Mock Newbery award. The audiobook is fantastic and won the Odyssey Award from the ALA. This year, my students particularly loved The War that Saved My Life, finding the story of Ada inspiring as she realizes how she's able to overcome many odds stacked against her. If you like stories of gutsy girls, you'll definitely want to seek out Our Only May Amelia.
Do you have any other favorites for children who love listening to long, engrossing stories? Please let me know your favorites, so I can add to my list!

Every day this week, I will share audiobooks for different ages. I'm also happy to offer a giveaway sponsored by the Audio Publisher’s Association June in Audiobook Month celebration. Winners will receive a pair of earbuds and 3 free audiobook downloads from Audiobooks.com! There’s an easy entry form at the bottom of this post.

Click the Rafflecopter form below for an easy entry. Enjoy listening and sharing.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The review copies come from my personal and school libraries. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, June 12, 2017

Audiobooks for developing listeners: June is Audiobook Month (ages 4-9)

As children start developing their attention span, try listening to longer stories. I've found that many children love listening to engrossing stories--remember that children's listening comprehension is often two years above their reading level. This means that preschoolers are ready to listen to the early chapter books that 1st graders read.
As we head into summer, spend some time trying out audiobooks, listening together with your children. June is Audiobook Month, and as part of that celebration I'm sharing my favorite audiobooks all week. Make sure you see the giveaway at the bottom of the post.

Early chapter books (ages 4-7): These stories combine humor, friendship and adventure. Mercy Watson makes us laugh with its slapstick humor, and Dory is an utterly lovable rascal. The classic friends Frog and Toad are completely charming as an audiobook collection.
Developing listeners (ages 7-9): Our 2nd and 3rd graders in Berkeley love listening to longer stories at school and at home. Some like listening and reading together, taking in the story with both their eyes and their ears. Others like just listening and letting the story develop in their mind.

Magic and imagination is a constant theme with these books. As you listen to Toys Go Out, you'll start wondering what happens to your toys when you're gone for the day--do they have a secret life all of their own? The Wild Robot follows Roz as she finds herself stranded on an island far from any humans. As any robot would do, she sets out to make herself useful and tries to be a good friend to the animals.
Do you have any other favorites for children who are starting to listen to longer stories? Please let me know your favorites, so I can add to my list!

Every day this week, I will share audiobooks for different ages. I'm also happy to offer a giveaway sponsored by the Audio Publisher’s Association June in Audiobook Month celebration. Winners will receive a pair of earbuds and 3 free audiobook downloads from Audiobooks.com! There’s an easy entry form at the bottom of this post.

Click the Rafflecopter form below for an easy entry. Enjoy listening and sharing.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
The review copies come from my personal and school libraries. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Stories & songs for our youngest listeners: June is Audiobook Month (ages 3-5)

As we head into summer, spend some time trying out audiobooks, listening together with your children. June is Audiobook Month, and as part of that celebration I'd like to share some of my favorite audiobooks for children. Every day this week, I will be sharing some of my favorites for different age groups.
My favorite storytellers blend songs, stories and folktales to captivate young listeners. Have fun listening to Diane Ferlatte, Jim Weiss or Pete Seeger as they sing traditional songs with a modern twist. Young children also enjoy listening to picture books, both new and old, especially if they are familiar books.
Do you have any other favorites you would add to this list? Perhaps there are other folk tales you love? Or classic picture books like Mike Mulligan and His Steamshovel or Is Your Mama a Llama? Please let me know your favorites, so I can add to my list!

Every day this week, I will share audiobooks for different ages. I'm also happy to offer a giveaway sponsored by the Audio Publisher’s Association June in Audiobook Month celebration. Winners will receive a pair of earbuds and 3 free audiobook downloads from Audiobooks.com! There’s an easy entry form at the bottom of this post.

Click the Rafflecopter form below for an easy entry. Enjoy listening and sharing.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

The review copies come from my personal and school libraries. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, June 5, 2017

Celebrating the music that infuses Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

Last week I sung the praises of the terrific new novel Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia. Today, I'd love to celebrate by sharing some music, in the form of a playlist recommended to me by Rita Williams-Garcia. This is a fun mix of music that mixes the blues and hip-hop that form the inner anthems for Clayton Byrd, Cool Papa Byrd, and the Beat Boys.



The hip hop beat continues to reign supreme among today's youth. My own teens introduce me to today's beats along with classic hip hop. I love how this novel connects both modern and older music together. As Rita Williams-Garcia writes in her authors note for Clayton Byrd Goes Underground,
"Both beatboxing and playing the blues harp relied upon inventiveness in a language churned up from the gut and out through breath, throat, tongue, teeth, lips and spit to amplify the musician's voice and emotional road beyond mere words."
Rita Williams-Garcia draws upon this inspiration, creates a story of a young man's emotional journey, and captures the rhythm and cry of the music in her words.

The audiobook is magnificent. Listen here, if you'd like, to an excerpt:
Overdrive sample audiobook:
I'm sure I'll be sharing more as the year progresses about what students think about Clayton Byrd. Until then, enjoy the music and the story. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, HarperCollins, and I have already purchased several more copies. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Connecting with students: Clayton Byrd Goes Underground (ages 9-12)

As an educator committed to culturally relevant teaching, I constantly seek out a diverse range of books. Today, I'd like to share with you how Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, by Rita Williams-Garcia, connected with one of my students, Shondrick, an African-American 4th grader. Earlier this week, I shared my full review of this outstanding new novel and some videos that can help students learn about the blues.

Shondrick is a thoughtful, perceptive reader and a young man I admire. School is not always easy for him, but he works hard and is a dedicated scholar. Shondrick told me that it was "interesting that Clayton Byrd never did anything bad in his life before" he ran away from home.
He could tell that Clayton was very upset after his grandfather died. On the subway, Clayton was so worried about getting his grandfather's hat back from the older boy that he would do anything. "It was all he had left of his grandfather," Shondrick explained.

I noticed how clearly Shondrick expressed the powerful emotions that Clayton was experiencing. He could see the inner conflict Clayton felt -- should he go along with pack of boys, even though he knew they were up to no good? What was the right thing to do? Williams-Garcia skillfully develops the characters so that readers develop a sense of their nuanced emotions.

Shondrick especially liked the way Rita Williams-Garcia incorporates both blues and hip-hop music. He told me,
"Even though most rap songs have cuss words, some have life stories in them and they tell you what to do and not to do."
Rita Williams-Garcia discusses these ideas further in her author's note, and I think she would agree that both blues and hip-hop capture people's life stories, lessons and struggles. Shondrick has listened to some blues and knows about blues singers who sing about life's struggles, but he prefers rap music.

The audiobook, read by Adam Lazarre-White, effectively captured the deeper black man's voice, in Shondrick's view. "The voices added drama and emotion to the dialogue," he told me. Listen to this sample of the audiobook to hear how Lazarre-White embodies Cool Papa Byrd, with a raspy, smooth voice.

Culturally relevant teaching describes an approach to education that "that empowers students to maintain cultural integrity, while succeeding academically"(Ladson-Billings, 1995). It is grounded in understanding students' cultures and incorporating this into our teaching. As Gloria Ladson-Billings explains, we must
"develop in all students cultural competence. What I mean by that is you help kids understand assets that are part of their own culture, while simultaneously helping them become fluent in at least one more culture. So it would mean youngsters of color have to learn the mainstream culture, but at the same moment youngsters in the mainstream need to learn some other cultures. Youngsters of color also need to value the culture they have."
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground helps me do exactly this. It gives value and respect to the blues and to hip-hop, building black students' knowledge of the assets that black culture brings to our society. At the same time, it helps students of different cultural backgrounds have a greater understanding of black culture. Best of all, it does this in a compelling, dynamic, heart-felt story.

As a librarian, I love sharing books--but really, what I love most, is discovering what books connect to different readers and how different readers seek out stories that mean something to them. Each person is different; my goal as a school librarian is to help each child discover they way reading can help them find themselves and see other people.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, HarperCollins, and I have already purchased several more copies. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Dory Fantasmagory -- terrific series for family listening (ages 4-9)

Are you looking for a chapter book to share with your family that works across a range of ages? Hook them with the humor of Dory Fantasmagory. This audiobook will have the whole family laughing along with charming six-year-old Dory and her siblings.
Dory Fantasmagory
by Abby Hanlon
narrated by Suzy Jackson
Dial Books / Penguin, 2014
Recorded Books, 2015
preview on Google Books
Amazon / your local library
ages 4-9
Dory (called Rascal by her family) wants to play with her big brother and sister, but they just complain that she's a pest. Her brother and sister tell her that a witch, Mrs. Gobble Gracker, is going to kidnap her if she isn't careful. While they want to scare her, they just end up encouraging her. She is full of playful imagination, whether it's talking with her imaginary friend or pretending to be a puppy dog.

Abby Hanlon knows just how to balance outrageous humor with empathetic characters. She taught first grade for many years and Dory's voice rings true. Whether it's when Dory declares that time-out is too much fun, or it's how she wants to stay in her nightgown all day instead of getting dressed for school--you'll find something to laugh at.
"It's Luke. 'Mom said you can come out of time-out now.'
'No thanks,' I say, and shut the door. Time-out is turning out to be way too much fun."
Narrator Suzy Jackson captures Dory's 6-year-old voice, with a full range of enthusiasm and emotions. Families will recognize themselves in Dory's attention-getting strategies, her mom's exasperation or her siblings' bickering. As the AudioFile review puts it,
"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."
Dory was a favorite read-aloud with our first grade classes this year--students came to the library asking for more Dory books! Listen to the full series, for a real treat:
1. Dory Fantasmagory
2. Dory and the Real True Friend
3. Dory Dory Black Sheep
I'm happy to join friends Alyson at Kid Lit Frenzy and Michele at Mrs. Knott's Bookshelf in celebrating the #Road2Reading. As they write,
"All journeys have a starting place. This is a weekly place to find books and tools that you may use with readers at the start of their reading journey."
I'd like to give special thanks to the community at Emerson for going with me on this #Road2Reading, especially showing me the power of audiobooks. I listened to the audiobook on Tales2Go. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Audiobooks on the #Road2Reading: Sharing student stories

I’ve seen first-hand how audiobooks bolster students’ confidence and reading skills. They enjoy reading, and this makes them want to read more. This volume and positive attitude is essential to their success. I don’t differentiate reading and listening to a book. They’re the same thing. One supports the other.
When he was in 3rd grade, Shondrick struggled with reading fluently and became easily frustrated. His teacher suggested that he used some of his reading time to listen to audiobooks. After listening to Horrible Harry, he proudly told me, “I just read it faster on my own!” Rereading the book he just listened to built his confidence, helping him integrate vocabulary and fluency skills.

Audiobooks can build on young readers’ feeling of success, especially if they listen on a consistent basis. Here are a few recent comments from 3rd graders:
  • “They (narrators) read the book really fluently so it’s easy to understand what they are saying. They are really expressing the story, they don’t just talk.”
  • “Sometimes you forget real quick about a story. When you read you have so much in your head, when you listen it’s easier.”
  • “Even if you aren’t reading the book at the same time, you’ll want to go grab the book later because you have a taste of it.”
  • “The sound effects help you envision what’s going on – you get a picture in your head of the story.”
These students listen during reading time in the classroom and at home using Tales2Go, a streaming audiobook service that Berkeley Unified School District provides. They listen on Chromebooks in the classroom, save a bookmark for listening later, and then listen on personal devices at home (phones, tablets, or computers).

My 3rd graders love to read series like I Survived and Goosebumps. This is because series build their reading confidence, immersing them in a predictable world with engaging stories and familiar characters. Here's a selection of my 3rd graders' favorite audiobooks:
I Survived the Sinking of the Titanic, by Lauren Tarshis
Horrible Harry and the Missing Diamond, by Suzy Kline
Revenge of the Living Dummy (Goosebumps), by R.L. Stine
Toys Go Out, by Emily Jenkins
EllRay Jakes Is Not a Chicken, by Sally Warner
Some of my students actively choose to listen and read to a story (paired listening/reading), while others prefer just listening. I find that this is partially a personal preference and partially dependent on choice of book.

Children’s listening comprehension is typically two years above their reading comprehension, meaning that we can understand more complex stories than we can read. If a child wants to read a complex book and their eyes can’t keep up, trying to read and listen will just frustrate them. Just listening will allow them to focus on building a story in their mind, understanding the vocabulary, plot and character development.

I'm happy to join friends Alyson at Kid Lit Frenzy and Michele at Mrs. Knott's Bookshelf in celebrating the #Road2Reading. As they write,
"All journeys have a starting place. This is a weekly place to find books and tools that you may use with readers at the start of their reading journey."
The formal research about the impact of audiobooks on children’s reading development is important (see this post for more details), but my personal experience lets me understand this more deeply. This post comes from a webinar I gave yesterday; come listen to the whole webinar if you'd like to learn more:
Preventing the Summer Slide with Audiobooks
via EdWeb.net, sponsored by Tales2Go
I'd like to give special thanks to the community at Emerson for going with me on this #Road2Reading, especially showing me the power of audiobooks. I'd like to thank Tales2Go for helping us reach so many students and for inviting me to participate in this webinar.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Harlem Charade, by Natasha Tarpley -- intriguing mystery & outstanding audiobook (ages 9-12)

Mysteries are great fun to read -- the suspense keeps you turning the pages. You have to read a mystery pretty carefully to pick up on the clues. Pretty soon someone is whisper-shouting, "I got it! I know who did it!" Many of my students love complex mysteries, where many threads come together in the end.

The Harlem Charade, by Natasha Tarpley, is an intriguing mystery my 4th and 5th graders are thoroughly enjoying. I highly recommend the audiobook, with narration by one of my favorite narrators.
The Harlem Charade
by Natasha Tarpley
narrated by Bahni Turpin
Scholastic, 2017
preview on Google Books
Amazon / Your local library
ages 9-12
*best new book*
A school project brings 12-year-olds Jin and Alex together, but they are initially wary of each other. Jin spends most of her time in her Korean grandparents' bodega; although she likes to observe and collect information quietly, she longs for adventure. Alex is strong-minded and assertive, yet she hides the fact that her parents are wealthy.

When Alex and Jin meet Elvin and learn that his grandfather has been attacked, they set out to help their new friend. These three begin to trust each other and learn that they'll need each other's help to figure out who attacked Elvin's grandfather. As they dig deeper into the mystery, they discover that Elvin's grandfather was a member of a Harlem artists' group in the 1960s that was committed to representing and creating a voice for the community. A real estate mogul is threatening to convert much of the community to a theme park in a bid for redevelopment.

Tarpley creates a complex mystery that pulls readers in deeper and deeper, winding many threads together. While one might argue that some coincidences enable her to move the plot forward at some key points, the diverse characters, textured setting and intriguing suspense lead to a richly drawn novel. It will automatically draw comparisons to Blue Balliett's Chasing Vermeer, but it also makes me think of Carl Hiaasen's Hoot, with its focus on community activism.

Narrator Bahni Turpin conveys these complex characters, showing how their lives intersect. I know it's cliche, but she really does bring them to life. As the Audiofile Magazine wrote,
"Turpin excels at accents and emotions... She ensures that listeners comprehend the story's historical figures and quick-paced, suspenseful events."
I finished this book wanting to learn more about the art world of Harlem in the 1960s and the exhibit at the Met called "Harlem on My Mind." Tarpley effectively conveyed how important art and local voices are to creating a vibrant community. This message is both timely and persuasive for readers just beginning to understand larger political events and social pressures.

I listened to the audiobook on Tales2Go. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Audiobooks for Summer Reading: Research + Recommendations

I have seen the power of audiobooks throughout my professional and personal life. They engage readers, help them build mental images of stories, and develop children's vocabulary. I am excited to share my experiences and recommendations, along with a survey of current research on the impact of audiobooks, in an upcoming EdWeb webinar:
Preventing the Summer Slide with Audiobooks
Monday, May 8, 2017 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm EDT
via EdWeb.net, sponsored by Tales2Go
Reading during the summer is essential, as the vast majority of parents and children know. Yet still, many students only read a handful of books during this 3 month break. The result is that they lose many of the gains they've made during the school year. This impacts students across the board, but has a especially significant impact on low-income students.

Listening to professionally narrated audiobooks is a great way to prevent the “summer slide.” In this edWeb webinar, I will present research findings from a 2016 study looking at the effect of adding a listening component to literacy instruction—in school and at home. I will specifically address its impact on student vocabulary, reading comprehension and motivation to read. I will put this in a broader context of reading develop, examining reasons why listening comprehension is key to developing strong readers.

I will also share my experience watching students use audiobooks on a regular basis and consider the importance of providing year-round digital access to audiobooks. Finally, I will share recommendations of some of our favorite audiobooks for summer listening.

This live, interactive session is designed for PreK-12 librarians as well as reading coaches, ELL specialists/teachers, Title I teachers and administrators, district librarians, and classroom teachers. Join us to learn how to prevent the summer slide with audiobooks!

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Audies Finalists: Terrific audiobooks for middle grades (ages 8-12)

I love listening to audiobooks -- but even more so, I love introducing children and families to this wonderful way of reading. Parents often ask me whether this is really reading, and I assure them that it is. Listening to an audiobook helps a child develop their comprehension skills as they imagine the story in their mind.

The Audie Awards finalists have just been announced, and I'm having a great time exploring them. These awards are given annually by the Audio Publisher's Association, recognizing distinction in audiobooks. It considers everything from the narrator's performance to the editing and production qualities.

I especially like the way the Audie Awards have a specific category for middle grade audiobooks. These books make terrific family listens for long car trips and also for daily drives to school. Here are this year's finalists:
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, by Leslie Connor
narrated by Michael Crouch and Kathleen McInerney
Eleven-year-old Perry has lived with his mom at the Blue River Coed Correctional Facility his whole life. So far, Warden Daugherty has let him stay with his mother. I am looking forward to listening to this book -- one that's been recommended by several friends. AudioFile magazine writes, "This poignant story inspires questions about truth, justice, family, and home."
Demon Dentist, by David Walliams
narrated by David Walliams, Jocelyn Jee Esien, and Nitin Ganatra
Demon Dentist is perfect for fans of Roald Dahl's Matilda or The Witches. Alfie is reluctant to visit the town's new dentist--like many of us, he hates someone prodding in his mouth. But when Dr. Root visits his school, Alfie can immediately tell that something is not quite what it seems. The multiple narrators, including author Walliams, brings alive this colorful cast. I have just started listening to this, and Dr. Root is deliciously wicked in this goofy, outlandish story of tooth-rot and good-versus-evil.
The Enchanted Files: Hatched, by Bruce Coville
narrated by a full cast, including Bruce Coville, Matthew Frow,ayne Entwistle, Kirby Heyborne and more
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the first Enchanted Files book, Cursed, the diary of a mad brownie Angus who's curse brings him to modern America. In this new book, Gerald, a poetry-writing griffin named Gerald, tells his story in diary format, as he struggles with his worries whether he'll be brave enough to live up to being a griffin. Coville's signature wit and humor makes me look forward to listening to this--his stories have always been terrific as audiobooks.
How to Train Your Dragon: How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury, by Cressida Cowell
narrated by David Tennant
Many of my students love this series, and I know they're going to be excited to learn about this epic finale. I've always found the audiobook versions of these tales terrific because they convey Hiccup's accent and humor so well. From the publisher's summary, "The Doomsday of Yule has arrived, and the future of dragonkind lies in the hands of one boy with nothing to show, but everything to fight for. Hiccup's quest is clear... But can he end the rebellion?"
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, by Adam Gidwitz
narrated by Adam Gidwitz, Vikas Adam, Mark Bramhall, and more
The Inquisitor's Tale comes alive as an audiobook, with multiple narrators helping readers envision the different characters who come to the roadside tavern to tell their part of the story of three magical children and their quest. Gidwitz combines adventure, history, humor and action along with a story that helps us think about prejudice, collaboration and friendship, I read this story, and then listened to the entire story again as an audiobook. It is absolutely terrific. Gidwitz won a Newbery Honor (hooray!!) for this outstanding tale. I'm so glad it's also being recognized for the terrific audiobook.

Have fun listening to these great stories. Thank you to all of the judges of the Audie Awards for helping bring these to our listening ears.

The review copies borrowed from the public library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

What Elephants Know, by Eric Dinerstein -- an adventure, a call to action, a window to our world (ages 9-12)

Fourth & fifth grade students across Berkeley are telling me that What Elephants Know is the best book they've read all year. They feel like they're right alongside Nandu as he rides his elephant Devi Kali into the jungle of Nepal. Kids are responding to this as an adventure story, a call to action and a window to a different part of our world.
What Elephants Know
by Eric Dinerstein
Disney-Hyperion, 2016
Audiobook narrated by Kirby Heyborne
Recorded Books, 2016
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
*best new book*
Nandu dreams of becoming a mahout, or elephant trainer. Orphaned as a baby, Nandu has been raised by Subba-sahib, the head of the king's elephant stable in the southernmost part of Nepal. As the story opens, King Birenda comes to their stable for his yearly tiger hunt. Nandu joins the hunt determined to make his father proud; but when he realizes that the king will shoot a mother tiger with young cubs, Nandu interferes.

Perhaps because his royal hunt was ruined, the king decides to shut down the elephant stables. And so Subba-sahib sends Nandu away to boarding school to better prepare for the changing future. Nandu is devastated without the support of home, especially his elephant Devi Kali and his best friend Rita. This is even harder as he faces taunting and discrimination from other students.

Readers are drawn into this world, identifying with Nandu as he struggles to save the elephant stables and home he loves. Dinerstein, the former chief scientist for the World Wildlife Fund, lived near the national parks of Bardia and Chitwan in Nepal for many years studying tiger populations. He brings an intimate knowledge of this region to this story. Yet the story does not come across as didactic or informational; Dinerstein successfully keeps the focus on Nandu's coming of age and discovery of his own power.

My students relate to Nandu's experiences of prejudice and his determination to help animals, both threatened wild species and an ill-treated elephant. Baba, a Buddhist holy man, helps give Nandu perspective:
"A question I sometimes ask myself: ‘When to act on what you see and when to accept what you see around you? I do not know the answer to this question. What I do know, Nandu, is that you had the courage to act.’" (p. 175)
My students and I did not have any prior knowledge about this area, and so I prepared this short slideshow to help show them where the story takes place. I hope you like it.

I especially love the audiobook for What Elephants Know. As Audiofile Magazine writes in their review:
Narrator Kirby Heyborne immerses himself in the character of Nandu...(His) earnest voice and brisk pace deposit listeners into the midst of each episode. He exudes Nandu's respect for Subba-sahib and the elephants. When needed, he punches out Nandu's thoughts--be it indignation at schoolyard bullies, warning cries to a tigress, or enthusiasm over mutual interests with his teacher.
Nandu's story has stayed with me, drawing me to learn more about this part of the world. As I wrote to several friends when I recommended this book, I wish I could buy a copy for every fourth & fifth grade classroom. Please seek out this special book.

Many thanks to Eric Dinerstein for helping me make sure the images accurately portrayed Nandu's world. And special thanks to my reading friend Armin Arethna for sharing her love of this book. The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Disney-Hyperion. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books