Some audiobooks!

Variously set long ago, far away and right here, right now, these audiobooks deeply engage middle-grade listeners in the struggles — and triumphs — of their protagonists.

audiobooks_gino_georgeGeorge, Alex Gino's middle-grade novel about a transgender girl named George (who secretly thinks of herself as Melissa), gets a remarkable reading from narrator Jamie Clayton, herself transgender. George's desire to play Charlotte in her school's production of Charlotte's Web is central to the book's plot, which is, of course, also about her desire to stop performing as a boy for the world around her. Clayton's rich alto voice is ideal for the text's rejection of a strict gender binary as she brings depth and emotion to George's first-person narration. To paraphrase Charlotte, this is Some Audiobook! (Scholastic Audio, 8–12 years)

audiobooks_bradley_war that saved my lifeAda escapes a horrid, squalid life in the "care" of her abusive mother by sneaking out with her little brother, Jamie, who is being evacuated to the countryside before Hitler begins bombing London. With an untreated clubfoot, Ada is physically and emotionally fragile; she cannot abide the kindness offered by her temporary guardian, Susan, and the rest of her new community. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's The War That Saved My Life is exceptional for the characters' deep humanity, and Jayne Entwistle provides a careful, authentic, nuanced narration of the story. (Listening Library, 8–12 years)

audiobooks_auxier_night gardenerIn The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier, orphaned Irish siblings Molly and Kip find work at a decrepit English mansion, where hidden secrets put them in considerable peril. A dark tree grows through the house, feeding off of the bad dreams of its inhabitants and granting wishes at a price; Molly becomes ensnared by the tree's offerings. Narrator Beverley A. Crick uses pace and an understated foreboding to mirror the tale's shadowy atmospherics, building to a rousingly dramatic finish. (Recorded Books, 10–12 years)

audiobooks_hunt_fish in a treeAlly, protagonist of Lynda Mullaly Hunt's Fish in a Tree, has been able to fool her teachers and parents all her life — until her new sixth-grade teacher, Mr. Daniels, begins to pay attention. After Ally is tested and dyslexia is confirmed, Mr. Daniels teaches her to read using methods that work for her brain. Narrator Kathleen McInerney's voicing of Ally is well developed, and Ally's emotions are evident throughout her struggles. This recording will allow access to the novel for those who have trouble reading — exactly the audience that might want to hear this moving account. (Listening Library, 10–12 years)

From the March 2016 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, formerly editor of The Horn Book Guide, is a freelance children’s and YA editor. She's also a former bookseller who holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons University. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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