December 2013/January 2014

Discover the World of Audiobooks

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Listening Librarians® Listening With Your Odyssey Ears "The committee work led me to listen, and now I can't imagine being in the car without an audiobook going—and another along in case I finish the first." —Ellen Spring, Library Media Specialist, Regional School Unit 13, Rockland, ME and current Chair, Odyssey Awards Committee Call to Teachers & Librarians Are you doing exciting things with audiobooks? Nominate yourself or a colleague and we may feature your school or library in AudioFile! (Email 68 I AudioFile/ It wasn't that Ellen Spring didn't have enough to do. As library media specialist for her RSU in midcoast Maine, she works in four separate schools, helping hundreds of students and teachers find the books and media they need. She coaches middle school Cross Country in the fall and Track and Field in the spring. Oh, and she runs marathons. Yet, a few years ago, after hearing Vicky Smith (now Children's & Teen Editor of Kirkus Reviews) talk at a Maine Library Association meeting about the Newbery Medal, Ellen was determined to volunteer for an ALA committee herself. Since 2006, she has done nonstop committee service—first on ALSC's Notable Children's Recordings, where she got to know Mary Burkey, one of the leading authorities on audiobooks, and became chair her second year. She did a stint on Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults, then served on the Odyssey 2010–2011, followed by two years on Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Last summer she got the call to chair the 2013-2014 Odyssey committee and remembers the moment as "one of the most exciting in my whole life." What did you have to learn to become a discerning listener? I had to value the sound. Mary Burkey always says: "Use your Odyssey ears." Instead of just listening for the plot and characters, you have to think about the accents, the phrasing, any extraneous sounds you hear. You may have to go back and see if a pronunciation was right, or the voice quality changed. You learn to listen discriminatingly and it takes practice. I tell people: Hear the past Odyssey winners, then listen to another audiobook and compare and contrast so you understand what makes the winners stand out. [See sidebar.] Looking back to your early listens, which audiobooks do you remember? I quickly understood how really skilled narrators can elevate a story far beyond what it would be if you read it, and I particularly liked books with many characters and different languages or accents because the narrators have a lot to work with. Books by T.A. Barron, for instance—The Lost Years of Merlin series (narrator Kevin Isola) with all their creatures and characters, and I was impressed by the Redwall series by Brian Jacques—with Jacques and a full cast. And, of course, Jim Dale doing all the Harry Potter books. What keeps you serving on ALA committees? It's rewarding and fun. You get to know people from all over the country, you go to the major ALA meetings with a sense of purpose, you keep in touch with committee members afterwards, and—not to be overlooked—you get thousands of dollars worth of audiobooks that you can then donate to your public library or school. Also, choosing the best feels to me like voting in a political election with all the anticipation of finding out who wins. At the Odyssey announcement, thousands of people come; it's like the Academy Awards. You feel the buzz. Mark the date: Ellen Spring announces the winner of the Odyssey Award on January 27 at the Philadelphia Convention Center.—Priscilla Grant

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