Ears on the Odyssey

Review: Picturebook Round Up


Let’s celebrate! We just finished picture book month, and we have some great picture book audios to share with you.  Publishers have really been stepping up their game with engaging, creative picture book audiobooks, many of which combine music, sound effects, and multiple voices. Some of these are so full-bodied that they don’t even need the book as an accompaniment, although most young learners would benefit from being able to see and handle the book as they listen. It is wonderful that these special books are getting the attention that they deserve, and we are hopeful that this trend will continue. Without further ado, here are some great listens to share with any young listener in your life. 

Alma and How She Got Her Name, by Juana Martinez-Neal, narrated by Adriana Sananes. 7 minutes. Dreamscape Media, 2019.

Alma and How She Got Her Name is a charming picture book, one that children and caregivers will want to read again and again. The good news for audio lovers is that the audiobook is absolute perfection! Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela–Alma, for short–is frustrated by her rather long name. In her opinion, it is much too long, as it “never fits.” When Alma’s father tells her the story behind each of her names, however, stories that include a book lover, an artist, and an activist, Alma begins to think that maybe her name is just right. Narrator Adriana Sananes employs a warm and welcoming tone throughout, transforming this audiobook into a comforting hug. Her accent is exquisite, and her voicing for both young Alma and her father is spot-on. It is worth listening to this story just to hear Sananes read Alma’s wonderful name, but once start listening, you’ll never want to stop. A treasure of an audiobook that could very well be an Odyssey contender.

Dragons Love Tacos, by Adam Rubin, narrated by the author. 6 minutes. Listening Library, 2019.

Dragons Love Tacos 2, by Adam Rubin, narrated by the author. 5 minutes. Listening Library, 2019.

Both Dragons Love Tacos and Dragons Love Tacos 2 are beloved picture books, just irresistibly funny and silly and pretty weird, too. But who doesn’t like that? The audiobooks for both stories are funny and silly and pretty weird, too, and they are perfect companions for the books. Long story short, the message here is that Dragons Love Tacos. But dragons don’t love spicy salsa. And when the two come together, uh oh….! Author Adam Rubin narrates both books, and sometimes authors don’t make the super best narrators, but in this case, he really nails it. His delivery is bouncy and light, funny, and perfectly timed. Additional sound effects and music create an almost cinematic feel, to the point where you could listen without the book and know exactly what’s going on. A truly delightful audio, one that makes listening fun.

The King of Kindergarten, by Derrick Barnes, narrated by Sullivan Jones. 5 minutes. Listening Library, 2019.

The King of Kindergarten, narrated with warmth and positivity by the talented Sullivan Jones, is a simple, yet powerful audiobook that will encourage any child to trust in themselves and know that they can succeed. The book follows an African-American boy through his first day at kindergarten, a day that is filled with joy, sharing, and good will. Narrator Sullivan Jones’ warm and reassuring voice matches the tone of the story and creates an atmosphere of comfort and safety. This audiobook does not feature additional sound effects or music, but that is just fine, as the true message of the story is allowed to shine through. A special audio, especially suited to one-on-one listening.

Monkey and Cake: This is My Fort, by Drew Daywalt, narrated by George Mount and Mike Dooly. 5 minutes. Scholastic Audio, 2019.

Monkey and Cake: What is Inside This Box?, by Drew Daywalt, narrated by George Mount and Mike Dooly. 4 minutes. Scholastic Audio, 2019.

Caregivers, rejoice! Easy readers aren’t always the most stimulating fare…at least the 200th time around. The Monkey and Cake audiobooks, however, are engaging, funny, and thought-provoking (Schrodinger’s cat, anyone?), and listening to them again and again is a pleasure, not a chore. Charming music opens each audio and runs throughout, gently moving the action along. Narrator George Mount plays the friendly and inquisitive monkey, and narrator Mike Dooly gives voice to a laughably gruff Cake. It’s a silly time, for sure, but one that will entertain listeners of all ages and may lead to some interesting conversations, too!

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