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Listening to friends and family

These audiobooks, recommended for middle-grade and middle-school listeners, tell a variety of stories about contemporary kids and families in engaging and entertaining ways.

Twelve-year-old Malú, star of Celia C. Pérez‘s The First Rule of Punk, is into punk rock and making zines. When her mother gets a teaching job in Chicago, Malú must reluctantly leave her record-store-owning dad behind in Florida (her parents are divorced) and adjust to a new city and school. Trini Alvarado captures Malú’s sullen tween voice perfectly; listeners can almost see her eyes rolling. Alvarado also manages the daunting task of reading Malú’s zines, interspersed throughout the novel, providing insight into her creativity and emotions. (Recorded Books, 9–12 years)

Hena Khan’s Amina’s Voice tells the story of a Pakistani American middle-schooler as she tries to overcome her natural shyness and find her “voice” through music. Narrator Soneela Nankani does an exquisite job of portraying Amina and her friends, family, and various community members. Subtle changes in tone and the use of well-delineated accents help define the different characters. Nankani’s reading also effectively conveys the story’s emotional range as Amina grapples with changing peer relationships, questions about her religious and cultural identities, and devastation after her community’s mosque is vandalized. (Recorded Books, 9–12)

The humor and drama of sixth grade are brought to vivid life in Andrew Clements’s The Losers Club. Alec would rather read than pay attention in class; he starts an afterschool reading club and names it “The Losers Club” as a deterrent, hoping he will be left alone to read in peace. Surprisingly, unexpected students begin to join the club, and he gets to know their stories. Chris Gebauer’s narration captures the lightheartedness of Clements’s text, with funny and intricate portraits of Alec and his classmates. (Listening Library, 8–11 years)

In The Vanderbeekers of 141st St. by Karina Yan Glaser, the Vanderbeeker family learns at Christmastime that they are to be evicted from their beloved Harlem brownstone. The five Vanderbeeker kids put their heads together, determined to find a way to convince their Scrooge-like landlord to let them stay. With a top-notch character actor’s versatility, narrator Robin Miles handles the voicing of a getting-on-in-years postman; a middle-aged bakery owner; and four-year-old Laney Vanderbeeker, who sings with much out-of-tune gusto, among many others. (Recorded Books, 8–11 years)

From the April 2018 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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