Leon was a ten-year-old who came in religiously after school to use the computers to play video games. When we would talk about books and reading, he would gush about his love of boxing and show great excitement when I would hand him books about the greats like Muhammad Ali. But Leon would lose focus after a few pages and go back to playing video games. Leon was a major multitasker. He could play games, listen to music, chat with his friends, and draw pictures all with ease. Leon’s constant need for stimulation made him the perfect candidate for audiobooks. Instead of asking him simply about the things he was interested in, I asked him why these things interested him. Leon loved boxing because it made him feel independent. He alone could take credit for his victories and failures. Leon said something like “it is all me” in the ring. As we browsed the audiobooks he choose something that surprised me - Pippi Longstocking. It didn’t take long to for Leon fall in love with Pippi’s autonomy and pluckiness.
I think about Leon often when discussing and reviewing audiobooks. Audiobooks offer another avenue to open up new and exciting ways of engaging with stories, especially for the busy, the distracted, the overstimulated, and the reluctant. Great audiobooks pair nicely with the multitasking listener who needs to literally shadow box like Leon while he listens. But audiobooks also offer a much needed respite to information overload.
It is no surprise then that the audiobook market has exploded. The Audio Publisher's Association in its’ yearly survey states there was an 33.9% increase in audiobooks sold in 2016. This boom has lead audiobook producers into creating more and more high quality audios with high production values and outstanding narrators in wide variety of formats. As the audiobook librarian champion Mary Burkey notes “The act of reading is evolving. Today’s readers can experience the same story as they toggle between audiobooks in the car, ebooks on the tablet, and paperbacks at home, and young people in particular are naturals...The ability to shift seamlessly from image to text to sound will be part of every young person’s transliteracy education.”
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So what makes a great audiobook? Enter the Ears on the Odyssey blog. The Odyssey Award has been given each year since 2008 “to the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States.” The Ears on the Odyssey Blog unpacks the specific aspects of audio production of great listens, as well as the kind of critical evaluation that goes into picking an Odyssey winner, and our thoughts on why this all matters. In the mold of other great mocks before it (.... like this great one you are reading RIGHT NOW), Ears on the Odyssey hopes to shed light on the process of how librarians think critically and choose award winning titles.
Check us out: www.earsontheodyssey.com
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