James van der Beek’s voice took over my head long after the four-hour audio book had finished. This isn’t a bad thing, but when I first started listening to Chomp by Carl Hiaasen, all I could think was: “Wait, Dawson is reading this! Dawson is reading this? Dawson from Dawson’s Creek, really? It’s Dawson!”
That lasted only about five minutes. That’s what a good narrator can do for an audio book. His voice was in my head, but the story consumed my thoughts and imagination.
Middle-grade audio books get a lot of attention during the summer and holiday periods when families are going on road trips or loading up iPods for plane rides. The rest of the year, it’s easy to overlook these gems. No matter which season, though, middle-grade audio books can be a powerful medium during family time preparing dinner or cleaning up after dinner, as a transition between homework and bed, or just a way to make the daily commute or errand-runs more enjoyable.
Listening to a middle-grade audio book avoids the ageism that can occur when a book is “labeled” for a certain age. Since it’s in the CD player or on an MP3 player, family members won’t necessarily know if it’s intended for ages 8 and up or ages 12 and up. Again, the story takes over and adults, teens and children can get caught up in it.
But back to James van der Beek: Can actors – big-name actors — let the book star? What do you think? Are there middle-grade books where the narrator has made the listening experience particularly memorable? Do you ever seek audio books based on the narrator? I can tell you at the public library where I work, we often get readers asking for more audio books by narrators they’ve enjoyed. (Note: You can search for audio book narrators in the “author” field in most library catalogs.)
Who are some of your favorite narrators – famous or not-quite-as-famous? Or if not a narrator, is there a middle-grade audio book that’s been a great experience for you or readers you know