Listen Up! Our Platinum and Gold Audio Winners 2009
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Posted: 2010-01-10 19:43:30 By: Joanne Oppenheim

 

Normal 0 0 1 362 2068 17 4 2539 11.1282 0 0 0 The popularity of audio books has grown over the years. And why not? Listening to a good story while you are on the go is often a lot more entertaining than a lot of radio broadcasting. In fact, it is a way to get more out of the time that has to be spent in a passive position of being on hold aboard a bus, train, car or ferry. Using our ears to make pictures in the mind's eye as a story unfolds is anything but mindless. It is an important skill that too often gets lost, thanks to all the screens we have come to depend on in the course of the day. Yet, visualizing a story from words alone is what we do when we read from the printed page or listen to an audio. The two are not that far apart.

Although we still tend to receive a lot of cutsie-kiddie music. For some reason so many musicians think they have to make up ditties about poops and spooks to capture a young audience. Good music for kids is also usually pleasing to adults, who after all are often listening, too. It isn't ever easy to cut though all the CDs that arrive each season. But once again, we bit the bullet, we mustered our courage and much to our delight found a short list of musical CDs that we think you will find special.

Here are our top picks of music and book & audio sets for young listeners as well as audio books for older listeners. Each group is arranged in age order from youngest to oldest.

Oppenheim Toy Portfolio  Platinum Audio Awards

AUDIO BOOKS

 

 


2009 Award
Tucker's Spooky Halloween
(by Leslie McGuirk, Candlewick $14.99 Score: )

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Tucker, an adventuresome dog, wants to be something spooky for Halloween. His owner dresses him in cute costumes, but Tucker is tired of looking cute. Finding Halloween stories that are right for younger children can be hard, but this one is right on the mark. It's another charming package in the Candlewick Storybook Animations collection. There's a small book, stickers, a small poster and best of all a two-sided disk that plays a DVD animated version of the story on one side and the audio on the other side.  Ages 3-6.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2009 Award
Ho, Ho, Ho, Tucker!
(by Leslie McGuirk, Candlewick $14.99 Score: )

Tucker, a zippy little dog is all excited about Christmas coming. When he snarfs up a holiday cookie from a hot pan his nose turns bright red! But, not to worry. On Christmas eve he gets to take a special trip with a jolly old fellow and that red nose comes in handy!  Here's a perfect package to take along on a holiday trip or to enjoy at home. It's another charming package in the Candlewick Storybook Animations collection. There's a small book, stickers, a small poster and best of all a two-sided disk that plays a DVD animated version of the story on one side and the audio on the other side. 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2009 Award
Pumpkin Soup Book & Audio
( Helen Cooper and read by Kathleen McInerney, Macmillan Audio $9.99 Score: )

Cat, Squirrel and Duck live happily in a little white house where they share music, food and friendship--that is, until Duck decides to try to make Pumpkin Soup. Kathleen McInerney's narration is colorful, the music is lively and both add just the right touch to a little story of friends who fall out and then find a way to make it up. For this time of year, it's so nice to have a pumpkin story without witches and goblins. After you listen to this together, your child can follow the signals for turning the pages and listen alone. After that you just might want to try making some pumpkin soup…even if it does get a little messy. 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2009 Award
Winnie the Pooh & The House at Pooh Corner
(Listening Library  $20 Score: )

These 2 disk sets were produced in 1997 and feature a marvelous cast of actors. If you are a fan of As Time Goes By, you'll recognize the voices of Judi Dench playing Kanga and Geoffrey Palmer (Lionel) playing Eeyore, among others. Adapted for audio by David Benedictus, who this year wrote the further adventures in the Return to the Hundred Acre Wood (see our audio review), this is a dramatized version of the original stories. For those who want only the authentic Pooh in their midst, this is it. We do think you will also enjoy the new adventures recorded by Jim Dale, mentioned above. You can dole each of these stories out, one chapter at a time as a listening treat before bath or bedtime. A great way to share some quiet moments before they nod off for the night. 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2009 Award
Return to the Hundred Acre Wood
(by David Benedictus/read by Jim Dale, Penguin Audio $19.95 Score: )

After an eighty-year absence, Christopher Robin returns to the Hundred Acre Wood and it does seem like only 80 seconds ago. Happily, Christopher has not grown up so much that he is unable to communicate full well with his old friend Tiger, Pooh, Piglet, Owl, or dear old long suffering Eeyore. Christopher returns with a bright blue bicycle and as his friend Pooh says that he's "a bit more...but not too much...he's still Christopher Robin."  Indeed, the new stories, ten in all, are a bit more...but very much in the tradition of the still not-to-be-missed originals. A new character, Lottie the Otter has been added, an assertive female character to an otherwise all male cast, although until this moment, one had never attributed any gender roles to any of the old friends. Now, we must confess, we have not read the book since we have been lucky enough to return to the Hundred Acre Wood with master storyteller Jim Dale. Not since his dramatic readings of the Harry Potter books have we heard any CDs that match Dale's amazing talents. Each of the beloved characters comes to life with a unique voice and transports the listener off to another place and time where good stories happen. You will need a little patience, you'll need to get past the rather long dedication and introduction and get on to the storytelling. We suggest skipping the pre-story formality and cut right to the stories. The whole family will enjoy this 3-disk set. Each chapter begins and ends with a musical cue that you can use as our own way of doling it out, one chapter at a time, to make it last longer! A honey of a way to end a busy day! 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 



 

 


2009 Award
Shrek! Book and Audio Set
(by William Steig/ read by Stanley Tucci, Macmillan Young Listeners $9.99 Score: )

Long before Shrek! reached Hollywood's big screen, William Steig, master storyteller and illustrator wrote this delightful story of a monster so ugly that flowers and trees bent as he passed their way. Steig's delicious verse and his comic illustrations make this great good fun to read aloud to your kids. Or, bring home a paperback and CD  and have none other than Stanley Tucci stand in for you with a hilarious reading. Kids can follow along in their book or just kick back and listen. You might like to do a little comparative lit by viewing the film Shrek! after you have shared the book and CD. How are they the same? How are they different? A perfect choice for any time of year, but especially right for Halloween entertainment. Normal 0 0 1 159 510 510 72 1115 11.1282 0 0 0

 

 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 



 

 


2009 Award
The 39 Clues, Book 5, The Black Circle
(by Patrick Carman, read by David Pittu, Scholastic $19.95 Score: )

For kids hooked on the #1 bestselling series, The 39 Clues, here's the 5th and newest book done in an audio version by the actor, David Pittu. Though done by one actor alone, the reading is animated performed by many voices, with amusing foreign accents, and a lively pace that keeps the listener on the edge of the seat in suspense. Book 5, The Black Circle opens with the arrival of a mysterious telegram that lures 14 year old Amy Cahill and her kid brother Dan into Russia in hopes of finding not just treasures stolen by the Nazis and what happened on the night their parents died. Mixed in with the adventure, Carman takes the opportunity to painlessly serve up some Russian history along the way. Unlike so many series written by a single author, this one was designed from the start to be done by various well-known children's authors. The Black Circle is by Patrick Carmen, author of such series as the Land of Elyon and the Skeleton Creek series. We suspect a lot of kids can read this faster than the four hours of disks will take. But for some reluctant readers, listening to one may inspire further reading...always a good thing. 9-12

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2009 Award
Nelson Mandela's Favorite African Folktales
(Hugh Jackman, Whoopi Goldberg, et al, Hachette Audio $16.99 Score: )

An amazing cast of talent donated their storytelling gifts to the making of this 3 disk set of stories from across the African continent. Hugh Jackman, Whoopi Goldberg,  Benjamin Bratt, Scarlett Johanson, Blair Underwood, Matt Damon, and Helen Mirren among many others tell these classic tales with music by Vusi Mahlasela and Johnny Clegg. The profits from this collection are to go to ANSA, a not-for-profit organization that provides services to AIDS orphans in South Africa. A print version of these stories is available under the same title and published by W.W. Norton. These authentic folktales are not for everyone since some are a little slow. However, these are rewarding tales that often carry a message of wisdom that goes beyond the story. They will be appreciated best by older listeners from 8 & up and their parents, too.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2009 Award
Riot
(by Walter Dean Meyers, read by a full cast, Listening Library  $25 Score: )

A dramatization of events surrounding the Civil War draft riots when rich families could pay a poor Irish immigrant $300 to take a son's place in the draft. New York City exploded with riots. Fifteen-year old Claire, the daughter of an African American father and an Irish mother is caught in the city's strife and her own sense of identity. A spirited dramatization that brings a chapter in our history to life. With a cast of more than 20 players, plus music and sound effects, this is a story from a distinguished author. Walter Dean Meyers, as always, addresses real issues of race, class, and mob violence with well researched facts and unflinching honesty. 3 CD's run about 2 hours and 36 minutes. 10 & up.

Age: Later School Years, Tweens, Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

MUSIC

 

 


2009 Award
Beautiful Baby, Wonderful Child
(by David Kisor, Growing Sound $15.95 Score: )

There are some lullaby and quiet time songs along with interactive dance-about tunes. Together they make for a lively listening and doing experience that fit into the day of infants and toddlers. The CD opens with the title song, Beautiful Baby, Wonderful Child, sung with Kisor's original words put to Bach's Prelude in C and moves on to several other songs that one might call love songs from parent to child. Among the loveliest is a lullaby, A Blessing, played and sung to the haunting music of a Native American flute. About half the CD is dedicated to action songs that will get toddlers up on their tippy toes and turning round and round. Also charming is a little tune called I Keep Kiss in My Pocket, that just might make separations a little easier. At the end of the CD there is a reprise of three totally instrumental renditions of three of the quiet tunes introduced earlier. These three will be perfect for a bit of naptime music. http://shop.childreninc.org/beautiful-baby-wonderful-child.

Age: Infants, Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2009 Award
Somersault Season
(Laura Freeman Music $15 Score: )

Laura Freeman steers clear of the usual cutsie or gross out humor ditties that are often served up as entertainment for kids. This is real music and a vocal talent that you will enjoy listening to. There's a good variety of rhythms and styles, from blue grass to marches. It's original music that doesn't condescend and Freeman's vocals are accompanied by guitar, uke, mandolin, electric guitar, drums, and bass…not to mention occasional troll, fairies, Frankenstein and frog voices. Many of the songs like Can You Shake It? are an invitation to get up and dance while others are just good listening fun. www.laurafreemanmusic.com

Age: Toddlers, Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009.

 

 

 


2009 Award
Banjo to Beatbox, Cathy & Marcy
(Community Music  $7.99 Score: )

From the opening rendition of Jubilation to the final beat of New River Train as it chugs down the track, this is a foot tappin' treat for the whole family. Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, Grammy Award winners are in top form and add to the fun with guest hip-hop artist Christylez Bacon. The disk includes not only eight musical numbers on the CD plus three bonus videos that you can view on your computer. Our testers especially liked the Syncopated Washboard Rhythm Song as well as an entertaining version of Hip Hop Humpty Dumpty, that sounds like it might be cute, but turns out to be good fun. Indeed, it's a gem with banjo strumming bluegrass meets hip-hop. A marvelous blend that we'd call a real keeper! You can download the songs on iTunes, Amazon, or at their website, www.cathymarcy.com.

This 2009 Platinum winner was just nominated for the 52nd annual Grammy award for  Best Musical Album for Children.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2009 Award
Go, Waggaloo: Sarah Lee Guthrie & Family
(Sarah Lee Guthrie, et al, Folkways $11.95 Score: )

Another generation heard from!  Sarah Lee, the daughter of Arlo Guthrie and granddaughter of Woody, carries on the family tradition with this lively CD that blends old and new songs. Among our favorites on this 13-track disk are the amusing Oh How He Lied, 'Cuz We’re Cousins, and the traditional She'll be Comin' Round the Mountain. Sarah Lee has a distinctive sound of her own and has composed music to some lyrics her grandfather never put to music, along with a number of all new songs. Guthrie is joined on the CD by her husband, Johnny Irion, their two daughters and none other than Arlo Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and his grandson, Tao Rodriguez Seeger singing along on a few of the songs. The variety of songs and voices are refreshing and all in all this is a winning choice for the whole family.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 


Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Awards

 

 


2009 Award
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Audio
(by Bill Martin/ Eric Carle and read by Gwyneth Pa, Macmillan Audio $9.99 Score: )

Read this to your toddler or sit back and listen as Gwyneth Paltrow does the many voices of the creatures in this classic. Toddlers love the bold illustrations and the predictable repetitive refrain. Before long they can say the book with whomever is reading it. On this CD there is also a read along mode with signals for turning the pages. More unusual, there is a Spanish Language version read by Adriana Sananes and an archival version read by the author himself.

Age: Toddlers, Preschool. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2009 Award
Snow, Book & DVD
(by Uri Shulevitz/ read by Sean Schemmel, Macmillan Young Listeners $9.99 Score: )

An award-winning book is no less magical in 2009 than it was when it won the Caldecott award years ago. The paperback copy of the book is handsome and enhanced with a CD read in several voices and plenty of charm by Sean Schemmel. Beginning readers will soon be able to read this story since the format of the text repeats itself with small variations and the entire story is told with a simplicity of words that capture the boy's excitement from first snowflake to enchanted white winter wonderland. Children as young as 3 will enjoy this, but we especially think 6's and 7's who are just learning to read will like this, too.

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2009 Award
The Ants Go Marching
(illus. by Dan Crisp, Childs Play $8.99 Score: )

We liked this oversized paperback book with tons of ants to count and a camp song to sing. Now a new edition has come out with a CD that has two tracks. One has the song being sung while the other is for karaoke singers.  Enjoy!

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009.

 

 

 


2009 Award
The Spirit of Christmas Audio
(by Nancy Tillman, read by Jim Dale, Macmillan Young Listeners $14.95 Score: )

Jim Dale brings his charm to this celebration of Christmas. He narrates the lyrical verse that can be listened to or if you have the book enjoy its beautiful illustrations as you follow along on the second track.  Dale also does a reading of A Visit From St. Nicholas, better known as 'Twas the night before Chistmas. You can use his reading with any picture book of this classic. The rest of the disk is filled with carols sung by the St. Paul's Children's Choir. 

Age: Preschool, Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2009 Award
The Mercy Watson Collection: Volume 3
(Listening Library  $14.95 Score: )

Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson books about an amusing pig who happens to love toast (among other treats) are delightful early chapter books for beginners. Do beginners really need a recording of a book they can read? Well, maybe sometimes. Reading and listening are not unconnected. For some kids hearing a book first may actually provide a welcome way into the solo reading experience. Remember, young children like to hear and re-hear their storybooks and the same often holds true of beginning readers. Ron McLarty’s narration allows them to preview the story and enjoy it before tackling the printed page on their own. Listening without the book helps kids comprehension. They need to supply the pictures in their heads…the pictures that are made from the words alone. This is what we must do when we read alone, so listening is the first step in using the mind’s eye. There is also benefit from following along with the book itself. Following as the narrator reads can help kids develop eye sweep and provides a model for reading with expression. The Mercy Watson Collection is a solid choice since the pages are not dense with words, but the text goes beyond a picture book to the next level up while being entertaining. 

Age: Early School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 



 

 


2009 Award
Dominic
(by WIlliam Steig/narrated by Peter Thomas, Listening Library  $25 Score: )

One of Steig’s best, Dominic packs his things and takes off to see the world. Pretty soon he meets up with the Doomsday Gang and so his adventure begins as he proves himself a match for their greedy ways. When word gets around, all who have been subjected to these villains seek Dominic’s help. A tale about the ups and downs of winning one's independence while learning about life and death, love and loss, and a genuine love of life! This is a story adults can savor along with their kids.   2 hrs. & 43 minutes on 3 CD’s. A good choice for a long car trip or flight.  

 

Age: Early School Years, Later School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2009 Award
Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls Stage Fright
(Scholastic $15.99 Score: )

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Middle grade girls are no doubt waiting for this newest title in the popular series. Written for younger readers than her popular Princess Diaries, 9-year old Allie Finkle is easy to relate to and funny although all the events in her young life are not laughable. This time out she is less than thrilled when she does not get cast in as the Princess in the school play. To make matter worse, one of her best friends get that part!  Even worse, she is cast as the evil stepmother…the worse part imaginable. The book is also available as an audio and read by Tara Sands. 

 

Age: Later School Years. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2009 Award
Al Capone Shines My Shoes Audio
(by Gennifer Choldenko/ read by Kirby Heyborne, Listening Library  $37 Score: )

In the sequel the Newbery award winning book, Al Capone Does My Shirts, 12-year old Moose is still living on Alcatraz. His dad works as a prison guard there so that his sister can attend a nearby school for kids with special needs. Moose is not exactly thrilled with living in close quarters with ax murderers and such crème de la crème convicts, as the infamous Al Capone. Of course, it's thanks to Al Capone that his sister got into that special school, but the question is what does Capone expect in return?  In her refreshingly breezy but meaningful way, Choldenko gives readers a wonderfully well-paced story that makes you laugh as well as worry. She gives Moose pause to consider serious choices that get dished up in life and seeing the differences between right from wrong. Written with suspense and humor and narrated with style, both this and the original book are good listening as well as great reads.

 

Age: Later School Years, Tweens. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 

 

 


2009 Award
Long Walk To Freedom
(Read by Danny Glover, Time Warner $31.95 Score: )

Danny Glover reads the autobiography of one of our great moral and political leaders, Nelson Mandela, who dedicated himself to the fight for civil liberties in South Africa. This is a special CD that older students may find useful in their studies. It is an inspiring story of his boyhood, his leadership in the ANC, his imprisonment, his struggles, and his eventual triumph as he became the President of South Africa. It is narrated with a calm assurance that holds the listener in awe of Mandela's courage and strength in spite of all he had to endure. An abridged version of the book for younger readers is available from Macmillan.

Age: Teens, Adult. Award Year: 2009. Click here to purchase the product on Amazon.com.

 



 
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