Ears on the Odyssey

Audio Review: Trombone Shorty

Trombone Shorty is the unforgettable and inspirational story of Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, who grew from a six-year-old with his own New Orleans band to an internationally known, Grammy-nominated musician. Troy grew up in New Orleans’ Tremé neighborhood, where people have their “own way of living” and their “own way of talking, too.” When he was just four years old, Troy found his own trombone, and although it was a little banged up, it set him on a path dedicated to inspiring others with music and song. With a trombone that was twice his size, Troy quickly became known as Trombone Shorty, and as Trombone Shorty, he played the streets of Tremé and later the world.

The picture book Trombone Shorty has garnered much praise and critical acclaim, earning both a Caldecott Honor Award as well as the Coretta Scott King (Illustrator) Book Award. As an audiobook, it is equally praiseworthy, the most delicious audio gumbo that a listener could want. It bursts at the seams with music, voices, exclamations, and greetings, a jubilant concoction that delights every sense.


Dion Graham © Audiofile Magazine

The audio opens with the foot-tapping, jaunty notes of Troy’s trombone, which sets the stage for the story to come. Narrator Dion Graham picks up the beat with alacrity and infuses the story with wonder, boldness, and joy. Graham taps into the rhythmic pulse of the book, punctuating the story with friendly greetings, “Where y’at? Where y’at?” Weaving under and through Graham’s deft narration is a robust soundscape, swelling with cheers from the crowd, the lively notes from a passing brass band, and the awkward tones of Troy’s debut appearance with Bo Diddley.

Picture books present a unique challenge as audiobooks, as they are so dependent on illustrations, colors, lines, and fonts. How does the audiobook capture important these visual details? Does the audiobook listener miss out? Some of the best picture book audiobooks work as readalongs and are meant to be read and listened to at the same time. These audiobooks become new creations in their own right, complete with music, sound effects, and voices which exist in tandem with the words and illustrations from the original picture book.
Not only are these books entertaining, but they are also educational, providing beginning readers with a multi-sensory way to experience books and stories. New readers enjoy the independence afforded by page-turn signals and benefit from seeing and hearing unfamiliar words. Struggling readers may see reading as a pleasure, rather than a chore. That is certainly the case with Trombone Shorty, which is a truly remarkable audiobook, one that is a worthy contender for the Odyssey Award.

Trombone Shorty, by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier, read by Dion Graham. 13 minutes. Live Oak Media, 2017.

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