Readtrips with Rita and Ryan by Elaine Fultz
I live in the suburbs and work in the country so I have no subway or bus option for my commute. The development of self-driving cars is exciting, and I’m eager for the day I can tell my car to go to work and either doze or read all the way there. In the meantime, I’m going to continue feeding my reading appetite (and my compulsion to use every moment of time productively) with audiobooks. I rarely know what’s going on in the real world, but I can by god talk about the amazing stories I consume in my car.
Most recently, I finished listening to Gone Crazy in Alabama written by Rita Williams-Garcia and performed by Sisi A. Johnson. Ms. Johnson has distinctive voices for every sister in the book, and that’s saying something with two octogenarian bickering grandmothers and three pre-teen sassy sisters who take turns provoking each other with kidding to downright cruel jabs. In addition to the five sisters, there are also five distinct mothers (the two grandmothers count here again), Cecile the Black Panther poet, Missus the stepmother, Big Ma the grandmother, Ma Charles the great-grandmother, and Miss Trotter (a.k.a Great Miss Trotter) the great-aunt. The overall story is compelling, but it’s going to be these voices – the voices of confident women, young and grown – that will add to my mental and actual tween book repertoire.
In a completely different way, Pam Munoz Ryan’s Echo read by multiple narrators now takes up significant shelf space in my mental library. Hers is a great shelf because it holds diverse musical fiction favorites such as Heavy Metal and You (Christopher Krovatin), Seraphina (Rachel Hartman), Love is a Mix Tape (Sheffield), Pay the Piper (Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple) and The Moorchild (Eloise McGraw). All of these wonderful music-related titles would be enhanced by audio versions with soundtracks. The Echo production team got it right. Echo’s audiobook format with music by Corky Siege is dangerously beautiful. As I was listening, I recommended the audiobook to my school’s vocal music teacher. She obtained a copy quickly and texted me a few days later, “I’m weeping in stopped traffic on I-75. Echo might kill me.” The voices in Echo are distinct and engaging, but the music is heart-breaking. Anyone considering reading Echo, or anyone who has read the text and enjoyed it already, MUST listen to the audio performance. It is harmonically glorious.
Other stand-out titles from this year’s car-reading include: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby performed by Dan Bittner; Upside Down Magic by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle and Emily Jenkins performed by Rebecca Soler; Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley performed by Bronson Pinchot; Carry On by Rainbow Rowell performed by Euan Morton; Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate performed by Kirby Heyborne; and the Half Bad series (so far) by Sally Green and performed by Carl Prekopp (heavy sigh – I listened to a sample on SoundCloud while I was writing this blog post and looking up performers’ names and really did sigh when I heard his alluring voice and accent again. Click here to hear him for yourself. See?!).
The public libraries in my area seem to be buying fewer and fewer CD audiobooks. Although I understand this choice in favor of more digital audio titles, I doubt I’m alone in my plea to libraries to keep buying CDs for a while longer until the majority of cars have their own wireless connection. I do not have an unlimited data plan for my Android phone, and I do not have a stereo to stereo hookup in my car. My nine-year-old Scion does not have Bluetooth. Yes, I could do some wangling and download an e-audio title to my phone with one of the digital book apps, then listen to it (legally?) with one earbud in and one ear tuned responsibly to road sounds. But, the CD audiobooks are still my best option. And now we’re back to my original wish — that self-driving car. Even when that wish comes true, I’ll still have to figure out a way to get Carl Prekopp to read to me.
Elaine Fultz is the District Library Media Specialist for Madison Local Schools in SW Ohio. She is a fanatical reader and reader’s advisor who sometimes brings audiobooks into the house and pulls out the old boombox to listen some more while washing dishes. She is currently listening to The Nest by Kenneth Oppel read by Gibson Frazier, but this will be five or so books ago by the time you’re reading this.