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Animals Rock with Lucas Miller! Monarchs, Metamorphosis, and More! 2009. 42min. Victory, DVD, $18.95. PreS–Gr. 2.
“Singing Zoologist” Lucas Miller entertains an audience of children in this upbeat production that blends live-action shots, animation, a mini movie, a music video, and performance footage to introduce the monarch butterfly, among other science-related topics.
The Cartoonist: Jeff Smith, ‘Bone,’ and the Changing Face of Comics. 2009. 76min. Victory, DVD, $19.99.
In extensive interview footage blended with film clips and excerpts from his work, Jeff Smith, the likable artist who pens the popular Bone series, recounts both his creative development and the evolution of the graphic novel.
Crips and Bloods: Made in America. 2009. 83min. Bullfrog, VHS, $295 (1-59458-852-X); DVD, $295 (1-59458-853-8).
More than a profile of L.A. gang violence and the warfare between the Crips and Bloods, this eye-opening program delves into the history and appeal of gangs. A dynamic soundtrack bolsters Forest Whitaker’s poignant narration and comments from former gang members, community leaders, and scholars.
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! 2009. 6min. Weston Woods, DVD, $59.95 (9780545134354). PreS–Gr. 1.
Clever animation, goofy sound effects, Dixieland jazz music, and Jon Scieszka’s voicing of the bus driver stand out in this hilarious adaptation of Mo Willems’ beloved picture book.
Heidi 4 Paws: A Furry Tale. 2009. 58min. 4 Paws, DVD, $9.99. K–Gr. 5.
This all-dog live-action version of the beloved children’s classic Heidi is touching, funny, and brimming with lessons on courage, friendship, and the joys of reading. Perfect for family viewing. You have to see it to believe it!
Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust. 2009. 92min. Koch Lorber, DVD, $22.98 (1-4172-0187-8).
This stellar documentary, packed with newsreel and feature-film clips and commentary from Hollywood insiders, tells the “unknown story of the 60-year relationship between the film industry and the atrocities of Nazi Germany.”
Inheritance. 2008. 75min. Docurama, DVD, $26.95 (1-4229-1048-2).
The daughter of notorious Nazi commandant Adam Goeth reaches out to a Holocaust survivor who was enslaved and abused in Goeth’s villa. This wrenching and unforgettable film documents the experiences of both women, who eventually meet on the solemn grounds of Plaszow concentration camp.
Knuffle Bunny Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity. 2009. 10min. Weston Woods, DVD, $59.95 (9780545134392). PreS–Gr. 1.
Knuffle Bunny returns in this adaptation of Mo Willems’ 2008 Caldecott Honor Book. Willems, his wife, and their daughter narrate this animated film that is as light and fluffy as the beloved stuffed-bunny star.
Landscapes through Time with David Dunlop. 2009. 6hr. SimmonsArt, DVD, $235.
In this lush 13-part series, landscape painter and art historian David Dunlop sets up his easel in beautiful European and American locales where he introduces and re-creates the painting styles of such influential artists as Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, and Cézanne.
Louisa May Alcott: The Woman behind Little Women. 2009. 84min. Nancy Porter Productions, DVD, $69.95.
Actor Elizabeth Marvel portrays the spirited, opinionated writer in this beautifully shot production that follows Alcott through her impoverished childhood, stint as a Civil War nurse, and unexpected success as a children’s author. Intermixing with dramatic reenactments and location footage is commentary from scholars and author Geraldine Brooks, clever animation, and Little Women film clips. (Top of the List winner—Video.)
The National Parks: America’s Best Idea. 2009. 12hr. PBS, DVD, $99.99.
Acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns’ sweeping six-part series chronicling the history of the national parks includes stunning landscape and wildlife footage, background music attuned to the era, vintage photographs, personal recollections, excerpted readings, and Peter Coyote’s smooth narration.
Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037. 2009. 81min. Docurama, DVD, $26.95 (1-4229-2946-9).
Using the production of a nine-foot concert grand Steinway piano as a framework, this lovely program highlights the instrument’s yearlong metamorphosis and careful craftsmanship, from shaping the wood to final tuning.
Audio for Adults
Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family. By Miep Gies. Read by Barbara Rosenblat. 2009. 9hr. Oasis, CD, $29.99 (9781598595239).
Anne Frank’s harrowing account is seen through the eyes of Miep Gies, who, along with her husband and others, helped shelter the Frank family for 25 months. Speaking in proud, proper, and warm tones and demonstrating her facility with accents, Rosenblat shines in her reading of this compelling memoir.
The Book of Night Women. By Marlon James. Read by Robin Miles. 2009. 16hr. Recorded Books, CS, $113.75 (9781436198424); CD, $123.75 (9781436198431).
Accomplished narrator Miles (who seamlessly moves from Caribbean cadence to arrogant British) brilliantly reads this gripping story of female slaves on an eighteenth-century Jamaican sugar plantation who plot a revolt.
Death of a Witch. By M. C. Beaton. Read by Graeme Malcolm. 2008. 5.5hr. BBC, CD, $59.95 (9780792759553).
Hamish Macbeth is drawn into an investigation of a newly arrived inhabitant of the village who is whispered to be a witch. Malcolm’s rich Scottish-laced reading creates an enveloping and luxuriant aural experience.
Guardian of Lies. By Steve Martini. Read by George Guidall. 2009. 14hr. Recorded Books, CS, $92.75 (9781440727122); CD, $123.75 (9781440727139).
The Language of Bees. By Laurie R. King. Read by Jenny Sterlin. 2009. 16hr. Recorded Books, CS, $113.75 (9781436128902); CD, $123.75 (9781436128926).
Mary Russell and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, return to England in 1924 to find Holmes’ illegitimate son asking for help in locating his missing wife and son. Sterlin incorporates believable accents (British, Scottish, Orkney) into her superb reading.
The Maltese Falcon. By Dashiell Hammett. Read by Michael Madsen and others. 2008. 3hr. Blackstone, CS, $34.95 (9781433252471); CD, $40 (9781433252488).
Wonderfully atmospheric sound effects, jazzy musical interludes, and outstanding performances by Madsen, Edward Herrmann, and Sandra Oh enhance this excellent radio adaptation of Hammett’s classic noir detective novel set in San Francisco in the 1920s.
The Other Queen. By Philippa Gregory. Read by Stina Nielsen and others. 2008. 16hr. Recorded Books, CS, $113.75 (9781436121729); CD, $123.75 (9781436121743).
Three outstanding readers combine talents in this historical fiction. Ron Keith’s and Jenny Sterlin’s dialogues between husband and wife (George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, and Bess of Hardwick) are wonderfully portrayed, while Nielsen’s depiction of imprisoned Mary Queen of Scots is filled with emotion.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. By Katherine Howe. Read by Katherine Kellgren. 2009. 13hr. Books on Tape, CD, $100 (9780307701978).
Howe’s debut historical fiction with a slight supernatural twist and Kellgren’s evocative character interpretations are a magical match of masterful storytelling and mesmerizing narration.
Raisins and Almonds: A Phryne Fisher Mystery. By Kerry Greenwood. Read by Stephanie Daniel. 2009. 7hr. Bolinda, CD, $34.95 (9781742018140).
Jazz Age sophisticate and amateur sleuth Phryne Fisher investigates the poisoning death of a Jewish scholar in a Melbourne bookshop. Daniel narrates in a cool and aristocratic Australian accent tinged with British overtones.
Revolutionary Road. By Richard Yates. Read by Mark Bramhall. 2008. 11.5hr. Books on Tape, CD, $100 (9781415956762).
Connecticut suburbanites Frank and April Wheeler are at the center of this 1961 novel in which their emptiness is rendered both real and frighteningly current through Bramhall’s meticulously paced reading.
Testimony. By Anita Shreve. Read by Nick Sullivan and others. 2008. 8.5hr. Books on Tape, CS, $100 (9781415960943); CD, $100 (9781415960363).
In this full-cast production, 14 actors perceptively represent different characters and viewpoints in Shreve’s poignant novel, in which the discovery of a sex videotape of a freshman girl and three basketball players rocks a prestigious prep school.
The Yankee Years. By Joe Torre. Read by Michael Kramer. 2009. 17hr. Books on Tape, CD, $110 (9781415958940).
Kramer’s crisp reading matches the prose of this best-seller, in which Torre discusses his stint as manager of the New York Yankees. Includes an interview with Torre.
Audio for Youth
Banjo to Beatbox. 2009. 30min. Community, CD, $7.99. PreS–Gr. 2.
Graceling. By Kristin Cashore. Read by David Baker and others. 2009. 12.5hr. Full Cast, CD, $65 (9781934180709). Gr. 9–12.
Katsa and Prince Po use their special talents in a quest to unseat a murderous king. Principal narrator Baker seamlessly integrates exciting action scenes and emotional drama in this full-cast recording of a multilayered fantasy-adventure.
The Graveyard Book. By Neil Gaiman. Read by the author. 2008. 8hr. Recorded Books, CS, $56.75 (9781436158794); CD, $77.75 (9781436158848). Gr. 6–10.
Gaiman’s voice holds both mystery and sophistication, enlivening the otherworldly environment that becomes home to the orphaned Bod. Gaiman’s ghosts are delightfully ghostly, and the murderers are incredibly nasty.
The Hunchback Assignments. By Arthur Slade. Read by Jayne Entwistle. 2009. 7hr. Listening Library, CD, $45 (9780739380222). Gr. 7–10.
Versatile Entwistle’s fluid, expressive, and evocative tones are a perfect match to this well-crafted story set in a richly imagined alternate Victorian world and featuring a sympathetic 13-year-old hunchback hero.
The Killer’s Cousin. By Nancy Werlin. Read by Nick Podehl. 2009. 6hr. Brilliance, CD, $54.97 (9781423380788). Gr. 7–12.
In a chilling reading that immerses listeners into 17-year-old David’s deeply disturbing world and dysfunctional family, Podehl distills every drop of terror in Werlin’s 1999 award-winning mystery.
Marcelo in the Real World. By Francisco Stork. Read by Lincoln Hoppe. 2009. 10hr. Listening Library, CD, $60 (9780739379912). Gr. 9–12.
Challenged by an autism-like condition, 17-year-old Marcelo Sandoval works at his father’s law firm, where he is faced with several moral choices and struggles to make the right decisions. Hoppe’s initially flat and then increasingly intense voice skillfully portrays the mind and thoughts of this bright, complex teenager, immersing listeners in Marcelo’s challenges and attempts to function in the “real world.” (Top of the List winner—Audio.)
Newes from the Dead. By Mary Hooper. Read by Rosalyn Landor and Michael Page. 2009. 7hr. Brilliance, CD, $87.97 (9781423392309). Gr. 9–12.
Readers Landor and Page build suspense in their exceptional reading of this story (based on historical events) of a wrongly accused servant girl who miraculously survives a hanging and a stuttering, painfully shy medical student.
Picnic Playground. 2009. 32min. Putumayo World Music, CD, $14.98. PreS–Gr. 5.
The next best thing to a picnic hamper full of goodies is this collection of 12 songs by 12 artists singing about 12 different foods. Listeners are whisked on an around-the-world gastronomical (and multilingual) romp.
Pretty Monsters. By Kelly Link. Read by Christina Moore and others. 2009. 13hr. Recorded Books, CS, $78.75 (9781436197489); CD, $108.75 (9781436197526). Gr. 9–12.
In this addictive collection, nine stories that blend “fantasy, horror, myth, and mischief” are matched with nine exceptional readers, including Alyssa Bresnahan, John Keating, Stina Nielsen, and Greg Steinbruner.
Riot. By Walter Dean Myers. Read by Dan Oreskes and others. 2009. 2.5hr. Listening Library, CD, $30 (9780307583406). Gr. 7–12.
Scene: New York City, 1863. Action: Gangs of Irish protesting Lincoln’s Civil War draft. Readers: Resonant tones of Oreskes and lilting brogue of Grainne Gilles, among others. Conclusion: A standing ovation.
We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball. By Kadir Nelson. Read by Dion Graham. 2009. 2hr. Brilliance, CD, $42.97 (9781423375371). Gr. 5–8.
Graham’s powerful narration is both passionate and respectful of the individuals who played in and supported the Negro Leagues. He gives each an individual voice, full of pride, pain, and emotion.
The Wolves Are Back. By Jean Craighead George. Read by Wendell Minor. 2009. 10min. Live Oak, CS, $25.95 (9781430105916); CD, $28.95 (9781430105947). Gr. 3–5.
Ambient sound effects (rushing water, chirping crickets) and soothing background music accent illustrator Minor’s calm reading of the text, which highlights the significance of the 1995 reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park.
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