Ten Treats For Your Ears by Teri Lesesne

I bought a car after the first of the year.  It was time to retire my old SUV and move to something a bit scaled down.   The car came with a 90 free trial of Sirius XM radio. I will not extend beyond the 90 days, though. You see, I hardly listen to the radio at all.   If I want music,  there are apps for that.  In the car, I read with my ears. It is a habit I developed when the grandkids were babies (they are 28 and 21 now) and we would drive cross country on vacations.  We began with “Wee Sing and Play,” but soon segued into audiobooks:  Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Misty of Chincoteague, and  a myriad of other titles kept them absorbed in the story.  No more, “Are we there yet?” from the backseat.  This habit of reading with my ears is one that has increased the number of books I can read each month; it has sharpened my sense of what makes for a great audiobook, and it has provided me company on long drives across Texas.  So, here are ten of those magnificent books that made me linger in the car after reaching my destination. They range from picture books to novels and even include some nonfiction.  The list could have hundreds of titles from my perspective, so picking just 10 was difficult, and the list is quite idiosyncratic.  For more recommendations, visit YALSA’s awards pages for lists from the Odyssey Committee and the Amazing Audiobooks Committee: www.ala.org/yalsa.

Wizard of Oz audio


Listening Library

Actress Brooke Shields brings Dorothy, Scarecrow, Lion, and the Tin Man to life in this audio that follows the text of the L. Frank Baum classic.  For anyone who has only the story from the movie version of the book, be prepared for some surprises.   Shields’ performance is muted, and the audio “reads” much like a bedtime story.  A wonderful addition is the original introduction to the book read by Paul Rudd.

The Storm King audio


Hachette Audio

Pete Seeger has left us all a huge legacy in this audiobook that includes spoken word poetry, songs, and stories.  His social activism, his love of music and musicians, and his determination to leave the world a better place shines through in each track.  Pair this with an audio CD of Seeger’s music (“If I Had a Hammer,” “This Land Is your Land,” and “Where Have all the Flowers Gone” to name just a few) for an incredible “text” set.

jazz audio


Live Oak Media

This collection of poems by Walter Dean Myers received the very first Odyssey Award from ALA features the vocal gymnastics of James Williams and Vaneese Thomas. With original music playing behind the readings, this is the whole package when it comes to listening to poetry come alive.  You can hear a short sample here:  http://www.amazon.com/Jazz/dp/B001U5P7EI/ref=tmm_aud_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1392387342.

dooby dooby moo audio


Scholastic Weston Woods

Randy Travis’ signature twang is perfect for the narration of this picture book about Farmer Brown and his errant animals.  When the cows, pigs, and ducks enter a talent contest, anything can happen.  A bonus track features Duck’s rendition of “Born to be Wild.”


Brilliance Audio

Hankies at the ready, listeners! Kate Rudd’s subdued performance as the narrator of John Green’s novel is perfectly understated and exceptionally moving.  This narration won the Odyssey Award for 2013.   You can listen to a short clip here:  http://www.amazon.com/Fault-Our-Stars-John-Green/dp/1455869910/ref=tmm_abk_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1&qid=1392387784.


Candlewick on Brilliance Audio

Leslea Newman’s ,moving poetry collection about the death of Matthew Shepard is read by a full cast of narrators.  All of the voices, from the deer who witnessed the torture of Shepard and stood watch over him, to Matthew’s mother at his bedside, and the fence and rope where Matthew Shepard died,  are present in this moving tribute.  Share this audio so that readers can hear the cadence, the rhythm, the form of Newman’s poems.


Brilliance Audio

An Odyssey Honor winner, this audiobook narrated by JD Jackson, tells of Cole and his relationship to a horse, a bond so strong that it moves Cole to fight for what is right.  Based on the real life story of inner-city horsemen, the audio will assist readers in entering into the story, dealing with the dialect of the characters.  Here is a link to a short clip:  http://www.amazon.com/Ghetto-Cowboy-G-Neri/dp/1480530654/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392388280&sr=1-1&keywords=ghetto+cowboy+audiobook.



Honored with an Odyssey Honor Medal, this Cuban folktale is narrated by author Carmen Agra Deedy.  It features three tracks that present variations of the story.  One is the book read in English, one is it read in Spanish, and the third track is a performance of the story by Deedy who is an incredible storyteller in addition to being an author.  Martina’s search for a suitable husband (after all she is quite old in cockroach terms) is full of humor.  And there is a surprise twist at the end of the story, too!


HarperChildren’s Audio

Rupert Degas’ narration breathes life into our main character, a skeleton detective, as well as his new sidekick, Stephanie.  Sound effects such as bines rattling and gasps and screams add extra shivers to this delicious mystery, winner of an Odyssey Honor designation.  Warning:  do not listen in the dark!  Visit this URL for downloadable ringtones, wallpaper, and other nifty Skulduggery swag: http://www.skulduggerypleasant.co.uk/games-downloads/


HarperCollins Audio

Who better than Neil Gaiman to narrate this story of Bod, the only living resident of a graveyard, a place Bod has called home for a long time?  As Bod navigates his world and the world beyond the cemetery, he is often threatened by Jack,  a man who murdered Bod’s family.  Jack is back to complete his task, but why?  Gaiman’s carefully paced  delivery heighten the suspense of the book.   Click here to listen to a sample of the audio:  http://www.amazon.com/Graveyard-Book-Neil-Gaiman/dp/0060530944/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392388977&sr=1-1&keywords=graveyard+book+audio.

Teri Lesesne was a member of the first Odyssey Committee and chaired the 2013 committee.  Additionally, she has judged various audiobook categories for the Audies from the American Audiobook Publisher’s Association. Her Odyssey ears are always on the lookout for the next best audiobook.