Friday, March 20, 2015

Review: The Terrible Two

Adolescent Audio Adventures Review of The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory JohnThe Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John

Miles moves to a new town - Yawnee Valley. He is unimpressed with the new town that is known for their cows. Miles plans to be known as the prankster at his new school, Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy, as he begins his school day. Unfortunately, he is greeted by one of the greatest pranks he's ever seen - the principal's car blocking the front door to school! Before he knows it, Principal Barkin is accusing Miles of this prank and Miles is introduced to Niles, the school helper.

Authors Mac Barnett and Jory John have created a fun new book for older elementary and middle school students. It's been said that there will be more books to follow, but The Terrible Two is a great standalone book. It's a great book of humor and friendship. The characters can be extreme, like Principal Barkin being upset and red-faced most of the book, but it works! I can see readers loving this story. I think parents would be amused as well if families wanted to listen together during a car ride.

The book is illustrated by Kevin Cornell, but when you listen to the audiobook the only illustrations are in your imagination. I did not feel cheated by not seeing the illustrations.

Adam Verner narrated The Terrible Two. This is the first audiobook I've heard him read. It was well done. The characters were different and I think they're personalities showed through the voices he created. One character in particular got under my skin - Stuart. He liked to shout about the happenings in the story, so his voice needed to be "shouty." Stuart was definitely shouty ... and annoying. Currently, Stuart is a minor character, so I could live with his maddening voice. If the series continues, I hope Mr. Verner returns to narrate the rest of the Terrible Two saga.

Reviewed from an Audiobook Jukebox copy. Thank you, Blackstone Audio!

Audio Book Details...
The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John
Series: Book 1, The Terrible Two
Read by Adam Verner
Produced by Blackstone Audio
Number of Discs: MP3 download (38 parts)
Total Time: 3.4 Hours
ISBN: 9781481515290

Friday, March 13, 2015

Review: Island of Legends

Island of LegendsIsland of Legends by Lisa McMann

I will admit that I never really finished The Unwanteds, Book 3, Island of Fire. I knew it was going to end and I couldn't stand the cliffhanger, so I stopped on the last track of the last disc. That worked well for me. I was looking forward to this new installment, but I wasn't crushed waiting for the release. Now books four and five of The Unwanteds books are out, so I didn't feel the panic of stopping the final track of book four, Island of Legends. I finished the entire story and now wait on pins and needles for the next book. (I need to finish some other titles before delving into book five.)

Each installment of The Unwanteds begins where the previous title left off. It's like one giant book and I'm on the edge of my seat! There were some unexpected twists as always, but I didn't find myself mouthing a moment with the reader as a scene unfolded. That was neat. I'm not going to share too much of the story, because I don't want to give away any spoilers. It's captivating and creative. Each book opens the world of the Unwanteds wider and wider, but still leaving mystery in its wake. If you're a fantasy fan, I would highly recommend this series. I would suggest middler schoolers and up.

Steve West returned to narrate the fourth Unwanteds book! He's originally from London and his British accent adds a bit of other worldliness to the Unwanteds series. Every once in a great while, his pronunciations of certain words tickle my funny bone, but it's not a negative to the narration. Each character has their own voice which is appreciated. From the last title (Island of Fire), I think Mr. West maintained his characters voices very well. The next installment of the Unwanteds - Island of Shipwrecks - is out now and I'm looking forward to hearing Mr. West's voice again.

The audiobook did have beginning and ending music. Each CD picked up the story from the previous disc without another narrator sharing the disc number or to ask to change discs. It's a smooth story from one disc to the next. The last CD only had a few minutes of story on it before it went into the credits. I wish the whole story could have fit onto 8 discs, but working with media, I understand that it doesn't always fit. If the quality is better on 9 CDs instead of 8 CDs, the product should be on 9 discs.

Reviewed from a library copy.

Audio Book Details...
Island of Legends by Lisa McMann
Series: Book 4, The Unwanteds
Read by Steve West
Produced by Simon & Schustler Audio
Number of Discs: 9
Total Time: 10 hours .25 minutes
ISBN: 9781442375260

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Review: Ben Franklin's Big Splash

Ben Franklin's Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First InventionBen Franklin's Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First Invention by Barb Rosenstock

Ben Franklin's Big Splash is fictionalized telling of one his first invention - swim fins and swim sandals. When he swam in the local river (Boston's Charles River), he observed the fish and the way they moved in the water. Ben wondered if he could create something that would help him move as fast as fish.

I listened to Ben Franklin's Big Splash while paging through the printed version of the story. The pacing was done very well. There are no page cues, but pauses between pages so readers can turn at the appropriate time. This story can be enjoyed with our without the picture biography book.

Barb Rosenstock wrote an active story while highlighting "s" words. I counted over 50 "s" words in the first ten pages of the book. Narrator Susie Berneis read the abundance of "s" words very well. She didn't over or under pronounce any of them just read them smoothly as the story progressed. It sounded like a story, not a tongue twister with "s" vocabulary. Well done!

Music and sound effects were added to this audiobook edition. The sound effects chosen fit the pictures of the story. They were subtle and added to the story, rather than took away from it. I really enjoyed the opening and closing music, which they also used again during the high points of the story - the inventions! The music selected was comprised of musical instruments and a tune that could have been heard during Franklin's life time. It sounded very colonial with drums and fifes. I think it would have been fun to add some glass armonica music to the story, but drums and fifes fit much better. And I am unsure if anyone would recognize the sound of an armonica. I just "discovered" the armonica last month and it has a very unique sound that could be perceived as eerie or ear-piercing rather than historical to listeners.

This book could be shared at any time of the year, but it could be highlighted during a unit on Colonial America, Inventors, or Swimming and Water. I think the target age is elementary students, but anyone with an interest in Ben Franklin would also enjoy this glimpse into Franklin's youth.

The audiobook solely features the story and two quotes of Franklin, but the picture book also shares a timeline, some of Franklin's inventions, and an author's note. Out of all the extras, the author's note would have been a nice addition to the audiobook. Rosenstock shares more about Ben Franklin and his swimming in her note to the readers.

Reviewed from an Audiobook Jukebox copy. Thank you, Dreamscape Media, LLC!

Dreamscape Media, LLC

Monday, March 2, 2015

Armchair Audies 2015

Are you familiar with the Audies? The Audies are awards given by the Audio Publishers Association, or the APA. Audiobooks from nearly 30 different categories are narrowed down to a short list of finalists. The finalists are announced in February and the winners are announced at the Gala in May. The Armchair Audies are audiobook enthusiasts who listen to the finalists in each category and cast a vote for the winner.
This year I decided to get in on the fun! I will be judging the one of the youth categories. There are three youth categories: Children's for Ages Up to 8, Children's for Ages 8-12, and Teens. I've listened to a couple of the 8-12 titles already, but haven't reviewed them (yet). I have listened to none of the Up to 8 or Teen titles, so I'm giving Up to 8 a try. I'm really looking forward to listening to some great audiobooks for young listeners. I will be sharing my reviews here as well as leaving feedback with Armchair Audies.

Here are the titles for the Children's for Ages Up to 8 Category:

  • Deep in the Swamp by Donna M. Bateman; Narrated by Tom Chapin from Live Oak Media
  • Follow, Follow by Marilyn Singer; Narrated by Marilyn Singer & Joe Morton from Live Oak Media
  • H.O.R.S.E. by Christopher Myers; Narrated by Christopher Myers and Dion Graham from Live Oak Media
  • Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell; Narrated by Lizan Mitchell from Recorded Books
  • This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen; Narrated by John Keating from Weston Woods
  • Timeless Tales of Beatrix Potter by Beatrix Potter; Narrated by Katherine Kellgren from Tantor Media
Want to join the audiobook fun of the Audies? Visit Armchair Audies and sign-up to judge a category! You can also follow these audiobook awards on Twitter with hashtags #ArchairAudies and #Audies2015. Happy listening, friends!
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