Saturday, August 11, 2007

Suitable for the whole family! Yawn ...

Finding audiobooks for the whole family to listen to is always a challenge for the readers' advisor. It's got to be clean/"safe" enough for the elementary school listener, yet sustain the interest of teenagers. For some families, the Deathly Hallows would not qualify.

Here's a series that might please many: Tales of the Frog Princess. Number 4 of this series, No Place for Magic, is on Selected Audiobooks' list of nominations, but all four are available to listen to. These Tales relate the adventures of Emma (Emeralda), a powerful green witch, who first meets her future husband, Eadric, when he has been magicked into a frog. By the time they get to number 4, Emma and Eadric are humans and have one last adventure before they can marry. The stories have the requisite magical ingredients and magical creatures, but are so tame, so "G-rated" (as a colleague described them), that all but the most timid 2nd and 3rd graders would enjoy them. Older teens would undoubtedly tune out, but middle schoolers could at least find them tolerable.

All this is faint praise for a book that I found pretty ordinary. The narrator, Katherine Kellgren, goes all out with the creature voices (vampires, banshees, trolls, dragons), portrays a singing sword (whose one tune seems to be Greensleeves ... but hey! at least she sings -- some narrators don't), and a number of nicely differentiated humans. It's just that, the book was so ordinary I can't call it Select.

This is a dilemma we in the listening biz come up against frequently -- is an average book, expertly narrated, an outstanding audiobook? I think I found Julius Lester's Cupid to be one of these titles, and last year, I'd put Accidents of Nature in this category. But I can't raise No Place for Magic to this status. Perhaps it's because fantasy novels are a dime a dozen these days, and we've listened to others that stand out more.

This is nominated, so we'll discuss it. I look forward to those titles where we'll have some meaty conversations -- much more interesting than those we all agree on!

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