Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Audiobook roundup: puddles, love, tea and independence

I’ve listened to several audiobooks lately, and haven’t had time to post anything about them. A quick rundown:

The Problem with the Puddles
By Kate Feiffer, read by Halley Feiffer, published by Listening Library
About 3 hours.

The problem with the Puddles?  Well, the Puddles actually have a host of problems.  To begin with, Mr. and Mrs. Puddle disagree - a lot!  For that reason, Baby, which is the name the exasperated hospital nurse finally wrote on the birth certificate when the Puddle parents failed to agree on any other, is called Ferdinanda by her father and Emily by her mother. Her brother, Tom, was somehow more fortunate. The Puddles' dogs, a miniature Chihuahua and a Great Dane are, (due to another disagreement) each named Sally - the Sallys or Sally squared, for short. 

The Puddle parents, however, "agree to disagree" (the title, BTW, of Mrs. Puddle's bestselling book!), and disagreements are not their current problem. Sally squared is the problem. In leaving their country house for a trip to their city house, they have accidentally left the Sallys behind!  While debating whether to go on or go back, the family car breaks down; in attempting to flag down a passing motorist, they are mistaken for a modern dance troupe, the Dancing Puddles.  Meanwhile, the Sallys have struck out on their own for the city. A hilarious set of circumstances ensues.

The story alternates in perspective, with chapters switching between the escapades of the devoted Sallys and the dithering Puddles.  The writing is funny and unique.  The Puddles are unforgettable. Great in audio format, but likely even funnier in print due to the illustrations! 
This book is a quirky winner for chapter book readers!

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love
By Lauren Tarshis, read by Mamie Gummer, published by Random House Audio.
Two hours and 43 minutes.

This review refers to the audio book read by Mamie Gummer. Not having read the first Emma-Jean Lazarus book, I didn't quite understand Emma-Jean's precise, peculiar, stilted, and clipped manner of speaking. (truthfully, I still don't) Early in the book, I assumed that the protagonist's precise mannerisms would annoy me; however, as the story progressed - a story of first loves, friendship, misunderstandings, and a loving home, I became connected to, and charmed by the characters. Although the foreshadowing was a bit obvious for a book aimed at grades 5-7, the sum of all its parts was much greater than I anticipated. Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love is a positive and heartwarming story with a touch of humor.

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Journey to Change the World...One Child at a Time
By Greg Mortenson, read by Atossa Leoni, foreword by Vanessa Redgrave, published by Penguin Audio.
(nonfiction) About 4 hours.

This is the children’s version of the inspiring adult book by the same name, and recounts Greg Mortenson’s quest to provide schools for poor children in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Atossa Leoni’s accented voice is perfect for this story, adding a subtle reminder that the story takes place far from the comforts of the United States. An inspirational, original song follows the reading of the book. Greg Mortenson’s story is inspiring and uplifting, but I doubt it is one that most children will read willingly. However, I would certainly not hesitate to recommend it.

and finally,

The Three Documents That Made America: The Declaration of Independence (1776), The Constitution of the United States of America (1787), The Bill of Rights and Other Amendments (1791)
By Terry Bregy, read by Sam Fink, published by Audio Bookshelf, LLC

About 1.5 hours

I don't know what possessed me to listen to this one, (other than my history geekiness!), but I have to admit that I didn't get through it to the end.  The audiobook contains interesting background information on each document and a reading of each.  The Declaration of Independence was captivating enough, but even the best reader can't liven up the Constitution.  I almost nodded off in the car while listening to it. Still, it's a useful title for teachers or taken in small doses.  Every child should know more of the documents that make our country unique.

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