Ears on the Odyssey

Our 2019 picks

At long last, we’ve got our end of the year picks for you all. Be sure to tune into the Youth Media Awards on Monday, January 28, 2019. It will be broadcast live at 8:00 AM (PT) from the Washington State Convention Center. Tune in to see the winners! We will be tweeting our reactions here @earsodyssey

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Blood Water Paint, by Joy McCullough, read by Xe Sands. 3 hours, 51 minutes. Listening Library, 2018.

A pitch-perfect reading of debut author McCullough’s fascinating and appalling novel based on the life of the influential painter, Artemisia Gentileschi. Artemisia was raped by her tutor and tortured during the trial which followed thereafter. Xe Sands’ narration is a work of art in itself, nimbly moving from free verse to prose, but conveying the rage, desperation, and courage of this remarkable young woman. A true masterpiece. (Sarah)

Boots on the Ground, by Elizabeth Partridge, read by Ray Porter. 4 hours, 57 minutes. Listening Library, 2018.

I listened to Boots on the Ground early in the year, and am surprised it has stuck with me as much as it has. The stories of Vietnam War veterans, anti-war protestors, and others from the time period are told interview-style. Ray Porter’s narration captures the essence of the first person feeling, and he has a deft sense of when to portray the dark humor that creeps into around the edges of people dealing with the unimaginable. (Natalie)

Bridge of Clay, by Markus Zusak, read by Markus Zusak. 14 hours, 44 minutes. Listening Library, 2018.

This was one of the most challenging and complex stories I’ve experienced recently, but it was so much worth the effort. It’s one of those titles that I think genuinely benefits from the audiobook form, and especially from being read by the author. As author and narrator, Zusak creates a very specific tone and feeling that carried me through nearly 15 hours. I would love to see it get rewarded. (Natalie)

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi, read by Bahni Turpin. 18 hours, 9 minutes. Macmillan Audio, 2018.

I listened to Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi this year, and I think the narration might be in contention for one of the best this year. Bahni Turpin’s narration was authentic and very emotive.  There were times when the emotion ran so high that I had difficulty listening because she cried out so sorrowfully! (Colleen)

I’m going to enthusiastically put in a vote for Children of Blood and Bone. This was one of the first audios that I listened to in 2018, and it has stuck with me ever since. Bahni Turpin never fails to amaze me with her command of accents, pacing, and authentic emotion. (Sarah)

Dry, by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman, read by Neal Shusterman, Jarrod Schusterman, Jenni Barber, Michael Crouch, Noah Galvin, Kivlighan de Montebello, Candace Thaxton. 11 hours, 6 minutes. Simon & Schuster Audio, 2018.

I think that Dry stood out for me this year because both the narration and story were equally engaging. It used a full cast for narration, and each narration was unique and embodied the characters to a T, based on the text. The audio was exciting and engaging! (Colleen)

Esquivel!, by Susan Wood, illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh, read by Brian Amador. 16 minutes. Live Oak Media, 2018.

Esquivel! is a book that simply must be listened to. Brian Amador’s warm and energetic narration perfectly matches the picture book’s bold illustrations, incorporating wild and joyful sound effects that must be heard to be believed. (Sarah)

The Poet X, by Elizabeth Acevedo, read by Elizabeth Acevedo. 3 hours, 30 minutes. HarperAudio, 2018.

A relatively short audio, but utterly captivating–you really won’t want to put this one down. This audio thrums, surges, and spills over with the messy but powerful glory of Xiomara Batista’s thoughts, dreams, joy, and gut-wrenching sorrow. Staggeringly intense and authentic. I cannot recommend this highly enough. (Sarah)

Poetry is meant to spoken and it is no more true than with the Poet X. Xiomara (X) Barista uncovers poetry as the means to wrestle with the universal questions of identity in her religious Dominican-American family. Read by the author with powerful rhythmic flow and immediacy, this audio experience will steep you in one young’s poet’s powerful emotional journey. (Lizzie)

Sadie, by Courtney Summers, read by Rebecca Soler, Fred Berman, Dan Bittner, Gabra Zackman, and a full cast. 7 hours, 57 minutes. Macmillan Audio, 2018.

Sadie is a truly outstanding, heart-wrenching, impeccably performed full-cast audio that makes full use of the audio medium. Utterly compelling performances capture the gritty desperation of Sadie’s life and her search for the man who destroyed her family, all presented within a thoroughly believable podcast frame. (Sarah)

A truly innovative and engrossing listen. A full cast audio with super star main performances that embody the undercurrent of darkness of a of missing girl on a complex quest for vengeance. The podcast structure is authentic and fresh. An excellent example of text enhanced by an audio format – a must listen.  (Lizzie)

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