ALSC/Booklist/YALSA Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audiobook Production

Odyssey Medal imageThis annual award is given to the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States.

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About the Odyssey Award

This annual award is given to the producer of the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults, available in English in the United States.  The selection committee may also select honor titles.  The Odyssey Award is jointly given and administered by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) and the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), divisions of ALA, and is sponsored by Booklist magazine.

The selection committee consists of nine members: four members appointed by ALSC; four members appointed by YALSA; a chair, whose appointment alternates between ALSC and YALSA divisions; and a consultant from the staff of Booklist magazine who works with audiobooks.  The consultant may participate fully in all book discussions but may not participate in voting.

Odyssey Award background information

What

An award for the best audiobook produced for children and/or young adults available in English in the United States.
 

Who

A committee made up of the following persons developed the rationale and requirements for this award:
Producers: Bruce Coville, Full Cast Audio; Tim Ditlow, Random House; Arnie Cardillo, Live Oak Media
Booklist Staff: Bill Ott, Editor & Publisher; Sue Ellen Beauregard, Media Editor
ALSC Members: Mary Burkey, Chair, 2007 Notable Children's Recordings; Ellen Fader, 2005-2006 ALSC President
YALSA Members: Sharon Grover, 2007 Chair of Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults; Pam Spencer Holley, 2005-2006 YALSA President
 

Name Selection for Award

The story of the wanderings of Ulysses, as he returns to his kingdom of Ithaca after the Trojan War, are ascribed to the blind poet Homer who either wrote, or dictated, the epic poem called The Odyssey. Whether this odyssey of Ulysses was based on one specific event, or many different ones, is argued by researchers today, though they all seem to agree that the poems comprising The Odyssey were originally told and retold in the oral tradition, hence the name for this award. The Odyssey Award allows us to return to the ancient roots of storytelling, while living in our modern world.
 

Why

The youth divisions honor books and movies with awards, such as the Caldecott, Carnegie, Newbery and Printz, but there is no official ALA award for audiobooks, which constitute a fast growing area of usage in libraries.

Consider the following:

  • Circulation for children's audiobooks rose 10.7 percent and the budget for these materials rose 4.8 percent (Audio Publisher Association, December 2004)
  • The growth in circulation of audiobooks is outpacing overall library circulation. Book clubs are increasingly made up of hybrid listener-readers, and the market for children's audiobooks is booming! (“Loud, Proud, Unabridged: It Is Too Reading!; The New York Times, May 26, 2005)

It's important that we, as a group of professionals committed to lifelong literacy, recognize the role of audiobooks in the development of literacy. Consider the following:

  • Research shows that one of the most important reasons for the increasing interest in audiobooks for young people is the correlation between listening to audiobooks and improvements in reading comprehension, fluency, language acquisition, vocabulary development and improved achievement. (“Not Just for Listening,” Book Links, May 2005)
  • Fewer Americans are reading books than a decade ago, according to the National Endowment for the Arts, but almost a third more are listening to them on tapes, CDs and iPods. (“Loud, Proud, Unabridged: It Is Too Reading!; The New York Times, May 26, 2005)
  • According to Wendy Kasten, an education professor at Kent State University, “Listening to tapes with books in front of students is very, very good for building vocabulary.” (“To Curl Up with a Good Book, Listen Up,” The Plain Dealer, May 23, 2005)

Listening is an important skill to be both taught and learned. Children of this century live in a world where media is a dominant form of communication (25 million iPods sold last year), and imagination's greatest champion in this technological realm is the spoken word. Through the years our cultures have been nurtured and our customs passed on by storytellers--audiobooks carry on that tradition.

In addition, with all of the audiobooks available today, and with the increasing number being produced, we believe it is essential for ALSC and YALSA to provide the same level of support for this nonprint format that they have historically provided for print materials, by creating an annual award for the best audiobooks in the field. We believe that by doing so, ALSC and YALSA can not only assist their members to better serve their library patrons, but also raise the profile and standards of audiobooks by having those honored serve as models toward which all audio producers can aspire.

Odyssey Terms and Criteria

General Guidelines

This award recognizes excellence by a producer or director for accomplishment and/or innovation in the production of an audiobook. The two winning titles must exemplify the highest standards of direction, narration, engineering, and technical achievement.

    • Popularity is not the criterion for this award nor is the award based on the message or content of the book on which it is based.

    • The committee must consider technical and aesthetic aspects, including the effective use of narration as well as music and sound effects when they are incorporated into the production. These elements must combine to support and enhance, through the audio medium, the literary merit of the work.

    • The audio production is the primary focus of the Odyssey Award. Though it is solely the audio that is evaluated, the committee may refer to the text to resolve questions concerning portions of the audio. In a publication that includes material that is intended to be explored simultaneously with the audio (as in the case of a picture book plus audio read-along that requires a text-to-audio match), the combined material plus audio elements must create a seamless production.

    • The audio must engage, stimulate and maintain listeners’ interest.

    • During evaluation, a committee member may perceive a narration, editing, or production flaw such as a segment of text repeated, omitted, edited incorrectly or other flaws that result in unacceptable audio quality. The committee member should immediately communicate with the chair who will investigate whether that flaw is unique to the committee member’s download or physical title, or if it is an error that appears on every copy. Although no title may be perfect, noticeable flaws will remove a title from consideration.

    • Committee members are encouraged to read articles that explore the unique characteristics, terminology and evaluative challenges of the audio format (see Appendix 2).

    • All committee members should refer to and become familiar with ALSC and YALSA inclusion and diversity guidelines (see Appendix 3 and Appendix 4)

 

  • Production Qualities

    • Narration:

      • Does the reader(s) have good voice quality, diction, and timing?

      • Is the reader(s) believable and convincing?

      • Does the reader(s) distinguish between characters by changing pitch, tone, and inflection? Are accents or dialects used and if so, are they handled authentically and consistently?

      • Are all words, including proper nouns, locales, non-English terms, character names, and others pronounced correctly and consistently?

      • Does the reader(s) avoid negative stereotyping and condescending vocal mannerisms and style?

      • Is the performance dynamic and does it reflect the expressive nature of the text?

    • Sound Quality

      • Is the sound sharp and clear with no obvious humming, distortion, or electronic interference?

      • Does the sound quality remain consistent throughout the recording?

    • Background Music and Sound Effects

      • If music and sound effects are used, do they enhance the text and support the vocal performance?

      • Does the music represent the emotional and structural content of the text?

  • Overall Rating

The sum of all the criteria should represent the highest achievement in audiobooks for children and/or young adults, including

  • excellence in narration;

  • excellence of audio interpretation of story, theme, or concept;

  • excellence of execution in the aural techniques of the medium;

  • excellence in the delineation through the audio medium of literary elements including plot, theme, characters, mood, setting, or information presented;

  • excellence in the appropriateness of technique or treatment to the story, theme, or concept.

Eligibility

  • General:
    • All literary genres are eligible for consideration.
    • Read-along Kits (book + audio productions) are also eligible.
    • The award considers solely the audio production of the title.
    • Audiobooks featuring single or multiple narrators are eligible
    • The awards will be presented to the producers of the winning and/or honor audiobooks. The recipient of the awards are the producers of the first U.S. release of the title.
    • “In English” means only audiobooks produced in English are eligible, but this requirement does not limit the use of words or phrases in another language where appropriate in context.
  • Availability:
    • The audiobook must be available to school and public libraries as an institutional purchase for the purposes of lending.
    • Must be available to the public.
  • Publication date:
    • The committee will consider and vote on titles published within their assigned calendar year, January 1 to October 31, in addition to those published between November 1 and December 31 of the previous year.
    • A title may only be submitted once and cannot be reconsidered the next year. Note that committee member terms begin immediately following LibLearnX in January, and thus incoming members will listen to titles that were released in the two months preceding their term of service.
    • Publication date is considered the first U.S. release to the public for
      purchase, whether download, CD, MP3, or other audio format.
    • Audiobooks previously published in another country are eligible (presuming a U.S. edition has been published during the period of eligibility).
  • Format:
    • Emerging formats and audiobook trends will be evaluated year to year by the current chair and the ASLC and YALSA Consultant and Liaison with input from the current Presidents of each respective ALA group.
    • Audiobook productions that have simply been remastered are ineligible for consideration.
    • New productions (narrator(s), producer, publisher) of previously released titles will be considered. 
    • Audio-only titles with no accessible print source are ineligible.
  • Age Range:
    • The audiobook is intended for either young adults or children, who are defined as persons up to and including age eighteen; works for this entire age range are eligible.
    • Adult titles are ineligible.
  • Other:
    • If no title in either age category is deemed sufficiently meritorious, the award will not be presented for that category.
    • The chair and administrative assistant, with assistance from designated ALSC or YALSA staff and the Booklist consultant, is responsible for verifying the eligibility of all nominated titles.

Odyssey Manual and Committee Information

Committee Members

Please visit http://www.ala.org/alsc/aboutalsc/coms for an up to date list of committee members.

Committee resources

Odyssey Award Manual (Word)

Odyssey Award Manual (PDF)

ALSC/YALSA Policy for Service on the Odyssey Committee (Word)

ALSC/YALSA Policy for Service on the Odyssey Committee (PDF)
Awards Diversity and Inclusion Discussion  with Kathleen T. HorningThis discussion took place at the 2015 ALA conference in San Francisco with Kathleen Horning and the 2016 Chairs of the ALSC Awards and Notable Children's Lists Committees.

Odyssey Submission Information

Odyssey Award Submission Process

How to submit recordings for consideration for the Odyssey Award:

  • The committee is only considering recordings release between November 1, 2020– October 31, 2021.
  • Review the terms and criteria below, or see the full manual under "Odyssey Manual and Committee Resources"
  • Please complete the online information verification form.
  • Mail one copy of the recording and a completed form to the committee chair. Address information can be found after completing the form.
  • ALSC membership is not a requirement to submit your work and there is not an entry fee for the Odyssey Award.

Please note:

The ALSC office requests one copy be sent to the committee chair. Standards are in place for the committee members to review and share submissions. 

Neither the ALSC office nor the committee chair can confirm receipt of submissions. If you would like to confirm delivery receipt of your submission please use a tracking number for your package. Submissions that are dropped off in- person to the ALSC office will not be accepted.

The ALSC office cannot answer eligibility questions or advise on which award or committee your submission is eligible for. It is up to you to review the terms and criteria and if you feel you qualify, submit as appropriate. Eligibility is determined by the committee and is confidential.

The book and media awards are announced each year at ALA’s Midwinter Meeting in January. The materials received by the ALSC office throughout the year will be used for ALSC’s Bookapalooza Program. The Bookapalooza Program selects three libraries to receive a Bookapalooza collection of these materials to be used in a way that creatively enhances their library service to children and families.

Deadline for submitting works is October 31, 2021.

The final list will be announced immediately following the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting, usually held in late January. The list will be posted to the ALSC website.

FAQs about ALSC’s Book & Media Awards Program