Monday, August 3, 2009

Dead but not forgotten

One of my most feared children's librarian questions is the one about which beginning readers are the good ones, because mostly I can't face 'em. Even though they take about 10 minutes to read -- and once you've read one, you've read them all -- somehow I can rarely bring myself to crack the spine. Audiobooks (even though beginning readers are generally less interesting to listen to than to read) have helped me out here. So, now I can add Horrible Harry to the read list, and well ... these aren't too bad.

In author Suzy Kline's series, Horrible Harry is a detective (he puts two baseball caps on his head -- one backwards and one forwards -- to make his deerstalker hat ... maybe most of you know this already) in the 3rd grade. He's got his own Dr. Watson in the form of best friend Doug, who narrates their stories. In Horrible Harry and the Dead Letters, the 3rd graders have been rewarded by teacher Mrs. Mackle for their color-inspired poetry writing with rainbow bookmarks. Mrs. Mackle has also introduced a post-office theme to the classroom: The class will write letters to one another and drop them in a mailbox. A group of students have been charged with the various tasks associated with delivering the mail. Any improperly addressed envelopes are sent to the Dead Letter Office. Everyone is enjoying themselves. Until the first rainbow bookmark disappears. Horrible Harry -- employing a slight fib and some recess-time derring-do -- solves the mystery.

The audiobook is narrated by Johnny Heller. I heard quite a bit from Mr. Heller when I first began listening to audiobooks -- as he has a somewhat youthful voice -- but I've not listened to him in some time. He reads with an expressive young-sounding hoarseness that's very pleasant to listen to. He's got the rhythms of kid speech down and gives each of the students a slightly different characterization. I particularly appreciated his skill at this when he read each student's "color" poetry at the end of the short book.

I'm fairly certain that he was instructed to slow down and read the book deliberately -- this is an audiobook that should help the beginning reader who can listen while holding the book in her hands. Unfortunately, at that pace, it's hard to get any sense of narrative flow, and it's just pretty darn dull to listen to. I'm repeating what I said one post earlier. So let's move on.

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