Audiobooks for kids, particularly picture book audiobooks, are a special genre that sometimes doesn’t get a lot of attention. As we’ve discussed on this blog, audiobook publishing for kids has come a long way. I would never want to criticize those first children’s audiobooks (Does anyone remember those little record players with real vinyl records? Ah, bliss!), but I freely acknowledge that today’s audiobooks are at an entirely different level. Producers and publishers take the utmost care in combining talented narrators, illustrations and pictures, fonts, sound effects, music, and more. These audiobooks are entertaining, illuminating, educational, and they make a real impact.
Live Oak Media’s impressive audio offerings are a case in point. Live Oak Media has produced a long list of celebrated audiobooks, from the first Odyssey-Award winning book, Jazz (2008), to Louise, the Adventures of a Chicken in 2010, to H.O.R.S.E: A Game of Basketball and Imagination in 2015. And that’s not to mention all of the Odyssey Honor books, the Audie Awards, and the Grammys! A quick visit to Live Oak’s website makes it clear that this is no run-of-the-mill publishing company. Live Oak takes the time to select special books, outstanding narrators, and really talented producers and sound engineers. They don’t produce massive numbers of audiobooks, but the ones that they do publish are of the highest quality.
Recently, Live Oak Media came out with a series of National Geographic readers that is just wonderful. It is no easy feat to produce engaging, high-quality nonfiction books, particularly kids books, where pictures, sidebars, and blurbs are so important. These nonfiction books are vitally important, however, since many kids have the interest in and ability to understand the content, but their reading abilities and vocabulary still need help. Having access to good nonfiction audiobooks opens up new reading possibilities and helps kids to grow. While they can listen with a grown-up, they can also listen on their own, increasing their independence and self-sufficiency.
Live Oak’s National Geographic readers are narrated by a host of skilled, well-known narrators, including Dion Graham, Simon Prebble, L.J. Ganser, and more. These narrators bring their many talents to bear, including the excellent pacing, pronunciation, and enthusiasm that we have come to know and love. Special features (e.g., “Weird but true!” sidebars) are approached in the same way throughout each book, always using the same phrasing and inflection. The same is true for the vocabulary sidebars and the text which describes the illustrations and pictures. In some cases, the voicing for the sidebars perfectly complements the text, as is the case with Dion Graham’s voicing of “Hot Word!” blurbs, which are accompanied by the sound of a freshly struck match. This type of attention to detail is a hallmark of Live Oak Media, and it is much appreciated.
Admittedly, Live Oak’s National Geographic readers would be an unconventional choice for the Odyssey Award. Even so, the trend towards producing high-quality juvenile nonfiction audiobooks should be applauded. We hope that this trend continues and hope to hear more and more of these great books!
Ellis Island, by Elizabeth Carney, read by Elisabeth Rodgers. 31 minutes. Live Oak Media, 2018.
Meteors, by Melissa Stewart, read by L.J. Ganser. 30 minutes. Live Oak Media, 2018.
Robots, by Melissa Stewart, read by Joe Towne. 28 minutes. Live Oak Media, 2018.
Titanic, by Melissa Stewart, read by Simon Prebble. 30 minutes. Live Oak Media, 2018.
Wildfires, by Kathy Furgang, read by Dion Graham. 28 minutes. Live Oak Media, 2018.