Reviews provided by Syndetics
Horn Book Review
(Intermediate) WarrenÕs Boston GlobeÐHorn Book Award winner, Orphan Train Rider: One BoyÕs True Story, focused on the experiences of a single child. Here Warren tells the stories of several children who rode the orphan trains in the early part of the twentieth century. Introductory chapters explain the programÕs founding in the early 1850s by Charles Loring Brace and describe the work of the agents who accompanied orphans on the trains from New York to their new homes in the Midwest. Among the children profiled in the anecdotal, often touching text are twin sisters Nettie and Nellie Crook, who flourished under the care of an older couple in Kansas; Art Smith, who was abandoned in a New York department store as an infant and taken in by an Iowa family; and Betty Murray, who was adopted by a prosperous couple while her siblings were raised nearby in somewhat harsher circumstances. While some of the orphans were forced into labor or suffered abuse, those interviewed for this volumeÑand featured in appealing black-and-white pictures as both children and older adultsÑgrew up in generally pleasant circumstances and went on to rewarding adult lives. Many have become involved in the Orphan Train Heritage Society of America, staging reunions with other former riders and working to educate the public about this intriguing chapter in American history. Includes a brief bibliography and index. p.d.s. Audiobook Reviews By Kristi Beavin Read by Amanda Plummer. In AlmondÕs visionary novel, three damaged childrenÑErin Law, January Carr, and Mouse GullaneÑhaving tried to escape from their orphanage on a raft, find themselves in an eerie landscape called the Black Middens. There they discover Heaven Eyes, a mysterious young girl with webbed fingers and toes who lives with her grandfather in an abandoned building. Narrator Amanda Plummer is more than a match for both the elegant, enigmatic language and the plot, which eddies and swirls like the muddy river that has carried these drifters away. Each characterÑfrom surly January to stalwart Erin to shy Mouse to menacing GrampaÑis crafted with utter precision. Best of all is the voice she creates for the title character; the oddly elliptical rhythms, off-kilter vocabulary, and diaphanous voice lend Heaven Eyes a moony, elusive, translucent presence. Beverly Cleary Henry Huggins Read by Neil Patrick Harris. This is not the first audio version of Henry Huggins: Recorded Books produced one in 1994, oddly enough with a woman narrator. Neil Patrick Harris seems a more appropriate choice if for no other reason than his gender. His contributions, however, add up to much more. From HenryÕs determined elation (wrestling the newly found Ribsy onto a bus) to utter humiliation (performing in a ÒNational Brush Your Teeth WeekÓ play), Harris captures the dimensions of a young boy facing the unavoidable highs and lows of growing up. His portrayal of the women in the storyÑHenryÕs mother and his teacher, Miss Roop Ñmay strike some listeners as exaggerated, but his vocalization of HenryÕs desperately typed and re-typed excuse to get him out of yet another performance (this time in an operetta) is a masterful comic turn. Carolyn Coman Many Stones Read by Mandy Siegfried. Sixteen-year-old Berry confronts the loss of her beloved sister, murdered while working at a school in South Africa. Narrator Mandy Siegfried provides the perfect adolescent voiceÑa mercurial blend of fury, insolence, naivetÄ, regret, longing, cynicism, love, and hate. The ever-shifting mix is punctuated by flashes of insight as Berry wrestles with questions of retribution and reconciliation. SiegfriedÕs gentle modulations in timbre, pitch, and pace reveal BerryÕs perceptions of those she encounters and their effect on her. This narration manages to capture BerryÕs multilayered personality, building a portrait of a young woman whose grief is also her strength. Jane Leslie Conly Trout Summer Read by Christina Moore. When thirteen-year-old Shana and her brother Cody, deserted by their much-loved father, discover an abandoned cabin on a weekend trip with their mother, they manage to talk her, and the owners, into letting them live there for the summer. After they cross paths with irascible Henry, elderly and ailing but determined to protect the river and the trout fingerlings he is raising, their summer expands from an outdoor adventure to an inner journey of self-discovery. Christina MooreÕs portrayal of sibling dynamics is entirely effective, as is her gradual modulation of HenryÕs ornery personality into an understandable if not sympathetic character. Moore deftly sketches in the rest of the characters to form a satisfactory backdrop for what is essentially a portrait of a difficult intergenerational friendship. Her other forte is pacing: from a tranquil beginning, she steadily quickens the pace, sweeping listeners forward to a final desperate rush through whitewater rapids. Lynn Joseph The Color of My Words Read by Lisa Vidal. Each chapter in this novel begins with a poem written by the narrator, Ana Rosa, who lives in a village in the Dominican Republic. The surface poverty of Ana RosaÕs life is balanced by the underlying optimism and rich traditions of her culture. The larger world of political corruption and economic greed, however, invades her village and brings about a sequence of events as cruel as it is inevitable. Narrator Lisa VidalÕs youthful voice is wholly appropriate to the age and innocence of the storyÕs main character. In addition, the fluid rhythms with which she speaks and the effortlessly pronounced sprinkling of Spanish words that flavor the text reinforce the sense of locale. Best of all, Vidal manages to capture the emotional extremesÑfrom joyous celebration to crushing griefÑthat frame the slender narrative. Rudyard Kipling Just So Stories: And Other Tales Read by Boris Karloff. Boris KarloffÕs deep, rich voice swoops and skims over such deliciously sequenced syllables as Òthe starfish and the garfish, and the crab and the dab, and the plaice and the dace, and the skate and his mate, and the mackereel and the pickereel, and the really truly twirly-whirly eel.Ó Recompiled from four LPs originally released between 1955 and 1971, this digitally re-mastered production makes an ideal introduction to KiplingÕs unique blend of the sinuous and the silly. These eighteen tales (seventeen read by Karloff and one by Anthony Quayle), including the entire Just So Stories and four tales from The Jungle Book, will delight devoted fans as well as turn the uninitiated into addicts. Louise Rennison Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging Read by Stina Nielsen. GeorgiaÕs story spills off the pages of her journal in a hilarious stream of chatter: breast envy! incipient acne! Òdishy blokesÓ! Narrator Stina NielsenÕs light English accent and the youthful timbre of her voice make her a perfect match for Georgia: vivid with enthusiasm, aflame with anger, dripping with scorn, wobbly with angst. Deftly, she shifts her tone as Georgia mimics ÓThe OldsÓ: her dad (Òa living reminder of the Stone AgeÓ) and her mum (Òmutton dressed as lambÓ). Although some expressions may be unfamiliar to American listeners, they fly by at such a pace that exact meanings seem secondary to the headlong rush of words. (For an Americanized variation on the genre, try The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot [Listening Library, 2001], read with breezy panache by Anne Hathaway.) Pam Mu-oz Ryan Esperanza Rising Read by Trini Alvarado. Thirteen-year-old Esperanza leads a privileged life in Mexico, surrounded by servants and an adoring family. When disaster strikes, she is unprepared for the wholesale changes she must now face. Narrator Trini Alvarado seamlessly weaves the Spanish phrases, traditional sayings, and unfamiliar place names into the text. For Abuelita, AlvaradoÕs voice ages ever so slightly; for Miguel, she conveys his dual role as both servant and friend; for EsperanzaÕs evil uncles, her voice drops to a slow, menacing drawl. Her best creation is Esperanza herself: AlvaradoÕs voice grows firmer and stronger with each step the character takes along her rocky path. Ruth Sawyer Roller Skates Read by Kate Forbes. In this 1937 Newbery Award winner, LucindaÕs parents leave on a trip to Italy, and she is shipped off to the suitably kind and satisfactorily inattentive Misses Peters. Free of parental oversight, Lucinda begins her adventures. Narrator Kate Forbes overcomes the somewhat leisurely construction of the plot by maintaining a lively, enthusiastic pace. Because this is so entirely LucindaÕs story, Forbes distinguishes the minor characters by only the slightest of variations, and settles instead for gently underlining the vividly graceful images that are the hallmark of SawyerÕs narrative style. Lemony Snicket A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the First, The Bad Beginning Read by Tim Curry. Lemony Snicket A Series of Unfortunate Events: Book the Second, The Reptile Room Read by Tim Curry. Lemony Snicket A Series of Unfortunate Events 3: The Wide Window Read by the author. Lemony Snicket A Series of Unfortunate Events 4: The Miserable Mill Read by the author. The first two volumes of these glumly funny melodramas are read by Tim Curry and recount the pathetic orphaning of the three Baudelaire children and their further gloomy adventures with their herpetology-inclined uncle, Dr. Montgomery. The next two are read by Lemony Snicket and follow the trioÕs adventures at the Lucky Smells Lumber Mill and their incarceration with a distantly related aunt who lives on the edge of Lake Lachrymose. Tim Curry reads at a measured pace and with a droll formality. At the same time, he seemingly twists his vocal cords to create outrageous voices for the equally outrageous characters he portrays. Lemony SnicketÕs approach is wholly different, featuring the offhand sang-froid of a standup comedian. Although he, too, creates a variety of voices, they succeed more from an intimate knowledge of the material than from vocal high jinks. With these two readers, it is merely a matter of preference; listeners are in for a treat. Jacqueline Woodson MiracleÕs Boys Read by DulÄ Hill. MiracleÕs boys are battered survivorsÑtheir parents have died, and the brothers face the dangerous attractions of living on their own in a rundown urban neighborhood. DulÄ HillÕs delivery is abrupt, almost staccato, with a full stop at the end of nearly every sentence as if Lafayette, the storyÕs narrator, is hesitant to plunge forward into an uncertain future. HillÕs voice softens, however, when Lafayette, unable to bear the present, retreats into memories of his mother. Subtle, almost infinitesimal changes in vocal register neatly capture the very different personalities of LafayetteÕs two brothers: CharlieÑrecently returned from reform schoolÑand TyÕree, who is sacrificing his chance to go to college in order to keep the brothers together. HillÕs narrative style lends a necessary strength to this gritty story of survival in the face of enormous odds. Noteworthy Continuations: Susan Cooper The Grey King Read by Richard Mitchley. Susan Cooper Over Sea, Under Stone Read by Alex Jennings. In the audiobook of The Grey King, the fourth volume in Susan CooperÕs five-part sequence, MitchleyÕs voice is one with the text, effortlessly articulating the elegant Welsh syllables and riding the currents of gathering malevolence like the wind over high crags. Equally exciting is Alex Jennings, who follows his spectacular reading of The Dark Is Rising (Listening Library, 1999) with a return to the mythic landscape in Over Sea, Under Stone, the first volume of the series that sets the stage for the desperate battles to follow. Philip Pullman The Amber Spyglass Read by the author and a full cast. Pullman continues his superb performance as the narrator of His Dark Materials, his outstanding trilogy, in this concluding volume. The cast of the two earlier recordings remains mostly the same; only Will has changed, Peter England now providing the more mature, confident voice appropriate to the young hero. At almost thirty-five hours of total listening time, this is a production and a world that will capture listeners and transport them beyond the grip of ordinary time. Nancy Springer I Am Morgan le Fay: A Tale from Camelot Read by Jenny Sterlin. In this companion to I Am Mordred, narrator Jenny Sterlin does full justice to the lushly melodic language, the sweeping drama of the tale, and the human dimensions of the characters, particularly Morgan herself, half-sister to Arthur. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.