Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Take a hike!

If it seems like I've been posting a lot lately, it's because part of my listening portfolio now includes much shorter books for shorter readers. There are good books for beginning readers and there are not-so-good ones. Haunted Hike, a Halloween entry from the Elliot's Park series, is one of the latter. Written by The Land of Elyon author Patrick Carman, the Park is the home of a gaggle of youthful squirrels who -- in this tale -- get dressed up for Halloween, go on a tour of their neighborhood, get frightened by one of their number who is up to no good, and celebrate in a self-esteemly fashion where everyone gets a prize for something.

I don't think my ears are quite tuned for beginning reader audiobooks. The simple sentences, coupled with the narrators' tendency to read pretty slowly and deliberately, lead the adult mind to wander. I mean, I have an eight-minute walk to and from work and I lost track of the plot between here and there ... twice. I ended up listening to the story twice -- the second time at my kitchen table where there were no other distractions.

But its beginning reader quality was not really why I didn't care for this (I don't think). The reader, Chris Sorensen (new to me), perks up the story with some character interpretation, but never seemed to lose that measured pace that has shown up in every one of the "non-novels" I've listened to recently. There's a character named Crash who inexplicably has an English accent and Sorensen couldn't maintain this consistently. He also frequently uses a slight, sipping inhale at the beginning of his (short) sentences and that got old very fast.

The publisher included the book with the cds, does that mean it's a read-along? Or does it have to have the page-turn tones to be a read-along? There were no tones in this one (thank goodness ... that would've added another five minutes!). As a result, I didn't look at the book, except when I took a peek after listening and discovered a very handy-dandy map of the Park on the endpapers! This might have helped while listening, but I simply wasn't going to put it through my ears a third time!

But the book really fell down because the publisher decided to produce a strictly unabridged audiobook, which meant that it included some backmatter (which I believe if the publisher decides not to include does not mean that the book is unabridged for our purposes) that really doesn't belong in an audiobook. First there is a lengthy cast of characters. I actually found this quite helpful, once I went back and listened to the book again. But, since the descriptions appear in the book following the story, I guess you can't have them before the story begins.

After the characters, though, came instructions for two craft projects and a suggestion for a field trip. So, Sorensen is reading a list of supplies for the crafts, followed by the step-by-step instructions on how to make them. Are you supposed to take notes? Not very interesting listening, I'm afraid.

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