Holly Black
Read by Nick Podehl

Urged on by the ghost of a girl whose ashes are hidden inside a porcelain doll, fantasy role players and best friends Zack, Poppy, and Alice embark on a real-life quest from Pennsylvania to Ohio to give the doll a proper burial. Nick Podehl demonstrates a remarkable ability to mimic the range of emotions in middle schoolers--from Zack's heartbreak and anger when his dad throws out his action figures to Poppy's unwavering and bossy determination. Podehl also captures Alice's metamorphosis from fear and anxiety to resolve. The spookiness of the story is heightened by the matter-of-fact tone of the adults when they refer to the kids' doll as a live person. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: JULY 2013]

Children AGes 8+
5.5 hrs, Unabridged

Jodi Lynn Anderson
Read by Cassandra Morris

Before Wendy Darling, there was Tiger Lily, the first to capture the heart of Peter Pan. She was smart, headstrong, and, unlike other girls of the Sky Eaters tribe, she hunted, explored the island, climbed trees, and could easily pass for a boy. Cassandra Morris pours just the right mixture of curiosity and affection into Tink's voice as she tells Peter and Tiger Lily's story. The imaginary world of Neverland is made ever more convincing by Morris's animated portrayal of the Lost Boys, the mischievous and protective Peter, and the heartrending emotion in Tik Tok's love for his daughter, Tiger Lily. Despite the oddly youthful rendering of the pirates, Hook and Smee, this is an enchanting listening experience that will make listeners cry. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: JULY 2013]

Young Adult
7.5 hrs, Unabridged

Gary D. Schmidt
Read by Graham Winton

In a desperate attempt to save their culture, the alien Valorim people send a neck chain containing all their beauty into the cosmos, where it lands in the lunchbox of Tommy Pepper. Graham Winton deftly differentiates between the alternating chapters of Tommy and the Valorim. When Tommy wears the necklace, the Valorim culture slowly merges with his own. Graham Winton’s narration of Tommy’s casual acceptance of this new knowledge and his utter astonishment that no one understands him are spot-on. But, despite Winton’s admirable efforts with the Valorim chapters, the stilted text as well as the many made-up words and alien names leaves the listener guessing at meanings. All is revealed in an epilogue and glossary, but that’s too late when listening to an audiobook. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: AUGUST 2013]

Children Ages 10+
6.5 hrs, Unabridged

Into the Ring, Book 1 

Michele Scott
Read by Amy McFadden

Amy McFadden's superb narration propels the listener into the high- stakes world of professional horseback-riding competition. Vivienne Taylor, the 17-year-old daughter of a horse veterinarian, is an equine empath who dreams of an opportunity to ride in the Olympics. When she receives a scholarship to the elite Fairmont Riding Academy in L.A., she finds she can communicate with all the horses except Harmony, the one assigned to her, who remains silent. Vivienne's research into Harmony's strange silence uncovers secrets others would do anything to keep buried. McFadden's diversity of snooty accents for the school's wealthy students is impressive. Her depiction of the close bond between Vivienne and the horses is perfectly paced. This emotionally charged production will touch listeners' hearts. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: JULY 2013]

Young Adult
6.25 hrs, Unabridged

Ake Edwardson
Read by Nick Podehl

Nick Podehl's steady narration draws us into the world of 12-year-old Tommy, nicknamed Kenny--after the word "ken," Japanese for sword. Every year at camp Kenny and his fellow campers must endure the abusive rules of the counselors and their sadistic leader, Matron. A group of boys led by Kenny adopts the honorable code of the samurai to cope with the horrors heaped upon them. Kenny's natural leadership qualities are revealed through Podehl's unique tone and pacing. Particularly memorable is the innocent voice of the youngest boy, Sausage, who continually begs Kenny for more samurai bedtime tales. Matron's heartless voice reminds us of every child's worst nightmare. Listeners will cower, laugh, and cry in equal measure. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: AUGUST 2013]

Young Adult
5.25 hrs, Unabridged

Henry Clark
Read by Bryan Kennedy

Bryan Kennedy deftly introduces listeners to friends River, Freak, and Fiona as well as to a sofa and a zucchini crayon hidden in the cushions. This unusual crayon leads them to Alf, the owner of the sofa, and to rambling, antiquated mansion. The trio's reactions to the existence of another world, sentient furniture, and the looming destruction of earth by invading stormtroopers are delivered with panache. Kennedy's renderings of Alf's friendly eccentricities, the sentient computer's companionable guidance, and the evil Disin's grating voice are especially delightful. No one does deadpan humor better than Bryan Kennedy, and the sound effects of the mansion provide perfect ambience. This wacky sci-fi romp is a great pick for a family road trip. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: SEPTEMBER 2013]

Children Ages 10+
8.5 hrs, Unabridged

Michael Ferrari
Read by Rachel Delude

Bird McGill loves nothing more than flying with her dad, an airplane mechanic who is the only one who believes in her dream of becoming a P-40 Warhawk fighter pilot. Narrator Rachel Delude adopts just the right amount of spunkiness for this 11-year-old tomboy. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, her dad is drafted. Then Bird befriends the new Japanese-American student, Kenji, and they uncover a deadly plot against the nation. Delude conveys the prejudice of the emotionally charged townspeople with perfection, particularly the bully, Farley. Listeners will be entranced by Delude's talent for delivering young and old voices, the mocking tones of the defense attorney, and the tension of the nail-biting climax. An afterword details historical facts. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: SEPTEMBER 2013]

Children Ages 10+
5 hrs, Unabridged

Todd Strasser
Read by Jeff Cummings

It's the early 1960s, and war with Russia is on everyone's mind. Some people are wary; some are skeptical. A vivid and haunting portrayal of nuclear attack explodes into action as Scott's family is woken in the dead of night. Narrator Jeff Cummings does a superb job re-creating the panic of adults' shouted instructions, kids' frightened cries and protests, the frenzied race to the family's shelter--the only one in the neighborhood--and the frantic pleas of neighbors desperate to join them. The story is told from the perspective of 11-year-old Scott in chapters that alternate between time frames before the attack and after. Cummings dramatizes each individual's response to the pressure of being trapped underground with limited supplies and facing possible starvation. This is a truly splendid job of answering the question "what if?" M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: SEPTEMBER 2013]

Children Ages 10+
5 hrs, Unabridged

Kidnapped, Book 3 

Gordon Korman
Read by Mark Turetsky, Christie Moreau

Mark Turetsky and Christie Moreau bring the Kidnapped trilogy, told in alternating chapters by the Falconer children, Meg and Aidan, to a thrilling conclusion. Meg is still in the clutches of kidnappers, their parents are cleared of all terrorist charges, and Aidan and the FBI hunt for clues. The two narrators show remarkable talent for weaving the characters' parallel perspectives into a seamless tapestry. Meg's bravery while lost in the mountains during a blizzard comes through clearly, and her stern and often impatient inner monologues are delightful. Aidan's voice is fierce with loyalty and faith in his sister's talent for survival. The tension builds naturally. This is a great way to enjoy Gordon Korman's flair for suspenseful chapter-book adventures. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: SEPTEMBER 2013]

Children Ages 8+
3.25 hrs, Unabridged

Diane Mott Davidson
Read by Barbara Rosenblat

Listeners will be amazed by the artistry Barbara Rosenblat brings to the much loved characters of Davidson's culinary mystery series. This time, Goldy's good friend Holly drops dead after attending a catered birthday party. Scrumptious food descriptions as well as Goldy's stubborn inner monologues and her best friend Marla's bold and brazen attitude are delivered perfectly by Rosenblat. She does equally well with friend Julian's dry humor and deadpan delivery. Tom, Goldy's sheriff husband, provides calm and steady support to the female sleuthing team. Rosenblat can be counted on to capture the essence of each character. Especially entertaining are the patience and sly humor of the two police sergeants assigned by Tom to protect Goldy and Marla as they investigate. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: OCTOBER 2013]

Mystery & Suspense
12.75 hrs, Unabridged

Joelle Charbonneau
Read by Elizabeth Morton

The even pacing and somber voice of Elizabeth Morton introduces the dystopian world of the United Commonwealth, formed after the Seven Stages War destroyed the land. In order to attend University, one must be chosen for the Testing. Despite her father's ominous warnings, Cia is thrilled when she's selected after graduation. Morton's voices for Cia and Tomas, her childhood friend, are clear and distinct, but the other characters sound flat and too similar. The drama of the story is intense, rising exponentially as the characters pass each stage of the Testing. Despite this intensity, Morton's narration remains flat and fails to capture the story's horror, violence, and terror. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: OCTOBER 2013]

Young Adult
11.25 hrs, Unabridged

Holly Black
Read by Christine Lakin

This dark twist on the vampire tale begins with Tana waking up in a bathtub in a house full of corpses. Christine Lakin's voice is chilling as she describes the scene. Tana's shock is evident in Lakin's dispassionate tone, which makes the character sound, appropriately, as if she were talking about someone else. Just before nightfall she escapes, along with her newly infected ex-boyfriend, Aidan, and a gorgeous vampire named Gavriel. They must get to the nearest "coldtown," a walled city where vampires and those infected must live. Lakin makes Gavriel's voice ooze with predatory seductiveness. Foreboding music fading into silence signals the end of each cliff-hanger chapter. The many gory descriptions are made even more creepy in audio. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: DECEMBER 2013]

Young Adult
12.25 hrs, Unabridged

A Hercule Poirot Mystery 

Agatha Christie
Read by Dan Stevens

This classic suspense is made grander still by Dan Stevens's ability to inhabit each character's full range of emotions. An unsuspecting group of 10 strangers is invited to a remote island. Each has a cleverly disguised secret, or so he or she thinks. One by one, the members are murdered in ways that match a gruesome nursery rhyme. Stevens's masterful performance is particularly notable in the guttural, authoritative tone he gives Judge Wargrave as he immediately takes charge. The quivering, fearful Mrs. Rogers, the prim and sanctimonious Emily Brent, the gloomy General, and the defensive Dr. Armstrong are all equally wonderful. As the guests' numbers dwindle, Stevens ratchets up the mutual suspicion and ensuing panic beautifully. This is the perfect companion for a dark and stormy night. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: OCTOBER 2013]

Mystery & Suspense
6 hrs, Unabridged

Odyssey of a Slave, Book 2 

Patrick Bowman
Read by Gerard Doyle

The listener knows immediately that Lopex (Odysseus) is in charge of the ship PELAGIOS and its crew. His innate ability to lead reverberates from the booming voice of narrator Gerard Doyle as he commands the men of Ithaca on their journey home. The story is told from the perspective of a captured Trojan boy, Alexi, whose healing abilities make him a valuable slave. Danger and wonder await the crew as they encounter powerful characters, such as the lisping King Aeolus, who casually commands the winds, and sweetly enticing-sounding Circe, who can lull even the strongest of men into a false sense of security. The disdainful tone of the ship's second-in-command, Yuri, is unmistakable as he mercilessly taunts Alexi. This second in Bowman's mythological series will entrance both boys and girls. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: NOVEMBER 2013]

Children Ages 10+
5.75 hrs, Unabridged

Samantha Shannon
Read by Alana Kerr

The intricately woven map of Shannon's futuristic world emerges slowly through Alana Kerr's soft, melodious tones. In London, where anyone with clairvoyant power is deemed unnatural and unlawful, Paige's dreamwalker ability is a valuable commodity. Elaborate world building dominates the first half of the story, which Kerr presents with a textbook-like reading. Paige's lovely Irish lilt and Nashira's malicious indifference stand out, but few characters have distinction. Kerr's narration remains steady, but it fails to reflect the ever increasing urgency of Paige's plight. The extensive glossary and charts are not included in the audio edition, a decision that makes it more difficult to keep up with this well-written fantasy saga. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: DECEMBER 2013]

15 hrs, Unabridged

Guardians of Ga'Hoole, Book 11 

Kathryn Lasky
Read by Pamela Garelick

Pamela Garelick's expert narration is a perfect match for Lasky's eleventh owl adventure. Nachtmagen, or bad magic, spreads throughout the northern kingdoms as evil lords and monstrous hagsfiends plot to overthrow the new young King Hoole and steal the powerful Ember. With the help of his close advisors, Grank and Theo, Hoole transforms the great tree into a place of learning and training for the upcoming preemptive strike on the enemy. One has only to hear the scratchy voice of Kreeth, the sonorous bass of Svenka, the authoritative crankiness of Grank, the spunky Irish lilt of Theo, and the calmness of King Hoole to envision this fantastic tale. Prior knowledge of this series is helpful but not necessary. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: JUNE 2013]

Children Ages 8+
5 hrs, Unabridged

The Story of Sarah Winnemucca 

Deborah Kogan Ray
Read by Christina Moore, Angela Lin

Deborah Kogan Ray chronicles the inspirational life story of Sarah Winnemucca, who was born in 1814 in Nevada to a northern Paiute tribe. While Christina Moore's steady, strong voice details the events of Sarah's life in the third person, Angela Lin's softer tone injects passion and feeling into Sarah's first-person accounts. The horrifying aspects of the story are delivered with suitable solemnity. Sarah never gave up on her fight to gain rights for her people even while being subjected to prejudice, diminishing land, forced relocations, government roadblocks, and prison camps, and even if it meant working with white people, which led to resentment from her own tribe. The dual narrators' rendering of the challenges she faced elicits a deep emotional response. An author's note and timeline are included. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: JUNE 2013]

Children Ages 8+
1 hr, Unabridged

James Lincoln Collier, Christopher Collier
Read by Charlie Thurston

In Massachusetts in 1786, 14-year-old Justin longs to be a hero like his brother-in-law, Peter, who recently returned from fighting in the Revolution. Narrator Charlie Thurston's delivery is methodical and precise, with distinct voices for each character. Postwar economic depression results in higher taxes, causing farmers to become so debt ridden that they either foreclose on mortgages or end up in debtors' prison. After an organized attempt by Captain Shays and local farmers to close down county courts, the rebellion becomes an armed insurrection. Thurston's portrayal of Justin's fears and conviction is spot-on. The majority of the story is done well, but moments in the heat of battle are oddly unemotional. Nonetheless, the listening experience is an enjoyable way to learn about this important historical event. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: JUNE 2013]

Children AGes 10+
4.25 hrs, Unabridged

A Diamond Brothers Story 

Anthony Horowitz
Read by Nickolas Grace

Narrator Nickolas Grace tackles the second Diamond Brothers mystery with intensity. Scotland Yard needs 14-year-old Nick Diamond's help to bring down the Fence by cozying up to one of his clients, 15-year-old Johnny Powers, who's serving time at a juvenile hall. Nick refuses, so the Inspector frames him for robbery and sends him to detention anyway. The Irish accents of the demented junior mobster and his crazy Ma are hysterical. Johnny taunts and sneers while his mother barks out commands one minute and coos over her son the next. Grace also skillfully portrays Nick's whining, incompetent brother, Tim, and other teens in a repertoire that will keep listeners engaged and laughing. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: JUNE 2013]

Mystery & Suspense 
4.5 hrs, Unabridged

The Imaginary Veterinary, Book One 

Suzanne Selfors
Read by Bryan Kennedy

Ben dreads spending the summer with his Grandpa Abe in Buttonville. But narrator Bryan Kennedy transforms "dullsville" into the wildest adventure imaginable. When his grandfather's cat brings home a mysterious hairy creature, Ben's visit to the local vet, a worm doctor, with his new friend, Pearl, launches them into an unexpected mission. Kennedy does a marvelous job voicing the multiple characters. Mr. Tabby, the doctor's enigmatic assistant, oozes with condescension and indifference. The disruption of pudding day at the popular senior center is especially hilarious. This delightful audiobook is the first in a promising new series. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: JULY 2013]

Children Ages 8+
3.5 hrs, Unabridged

Jeff Brown
Read by Vinnie Pena

[Editors' Note: The following is a combined review of FLAT STANLEY AND THE FIREHOUSE, FLAT STANLEY GOES CAMPING, and FLAT STANLEY AND THE HAUNTED HOUSE.]--Vinnie Pena delivers three adventures of Stanley, his parents, and his little brother, Arthur, in a clearly enunciated voice ideal for beginning readers. Stanley is four feet tall, one inch wide, and about one inch thick--ever since a bulletin board fell on him. Sound effects, including sirens, a dog barking, yowls of a cat, nighttime crickets, and belly flops pepper the narration in all the right places as Stanley and Arthur rescue a cat from a tree, thwart a bully, and escape a skunk. Pena's tone for the parents and the firemen is friendly but firm while the kids' exclamations are energetic, even boisterous, at times. Creative, simple, and fun, this production will entrance young listeners. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: JULY 2013]

Children Ages 4-6
7 mins., Unabridged

Walter Dean Myers
Read by Brandon Gill

The polished narration of Brandon Gill paints a crystal-clear picture of two high school seniors, Darius and Twig, who are struggling against the burdens of growing up in Harlem. The emotion, warmth, and humor given to the boys' ruminations about school, family, the neighborhood, and Darius's own bird's-eye view of the world are tangible. Despite poverty, gang violence, bullies, and domestic problems, they hold fast to their dreams. Darius, a writer, wants his story published, and Twig, a runner, needs a track scholarship for college. Their dreams are what set them apart from the chaos around them. Gill's performance is intense, relaxed, detached, or light in all the right places. Listeners will stay engaged with this story long after it's over. M.F.T. © AudioFile 2013, Portland, Maine [Published: JUNE 2013]

Young Adult
4.25 hrs, Unabridged

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