Saturday, May 31, 2014

Let's get started

Between the glory that was Beautiful Ruins and the fun listen currently in the ears was a raft of unmemorable listens and I am behind on blogging about them. Remembering details may be tricky. This first one shouldn't be too hard, it's just 10 minutes long. As said before, I'm working my way through this year's children's literature award winners, which brings us to the (Theodor Seuss) Geisel Award. This one is just a few years old and goes to the best "beginning reader" books. Beginning readers can be a real bore to listen to, unless you are an actual beginning reader, when it is helpful to follow along. So, we'll have to cut it a little slack.

One of the Geisel Honors this year was a little gem from Kevin Henkes, Penny and Her Marble. The third in a series about a sweet mouse named Penny and the small crises that arise from her relatively ordinary days. A lesson is usually learned, but with Henkes' deft touch it isn't overbearing. Penny's a kindergartner/first grader and while outside playing one day, she spies a beautiful blue marble lying on her neighbor's lawn. She takes it, all the while knowing that she shouldn't. Penny's troubled by what she's done and eventually puts it back, and then encounters the neighbor when she learns something that makes everything alright.

Henkes has an astonishing feel for the emotions of young children and this story is no exception. Penny's anxiety is couched in situations that most children can completely identify with. The easing of her tension at the end is palpable. How can the emotions be so complex and the language so simple? Henkes is a master.

He gets the full glamour treatment for the audiobooks, which are narrated by the actress Cynthia Nixon. She takes seriously her responsibility to her young followers-along and reads very deliberately. Penny's troubled conscience comes through without a lot of drama as -- properly -- Nixon doesn't want anything to get in the way of the words. She reads Penny with too much of a husky voice (sounding a little Brenda Vaccaro) and a hint of babyishness that I didn't care for. But really, it was only 10 minutes.

It looks like Nixon has read a handful of adult titles as well, so it might be intriguing to try her again. I'm not sure I could take Sex and the City, but Tales of the City would be fun. I read those so long ago, when I didn't know nothing about nothing!

[Everyone's Blue Marble, as photographed from Apollo 17 in 1972. This image was uploaded by Ultimate Roadgeek and retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.]

Penny and Her Marble by Kevin Henkes
Narrated by Cynthia Nixon
HarperAudio, 2013.  :10

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