2023 Notable Children's Recordings

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The Notable Children’s Recordings list includes recordings for children 14 years of age and younger of especially commendable quality that demonstrate respect for young people’s intelligence and imagination; exhibit venturesome creativity; and reflect and encourage the interests of children and young adolescents in exemplary ways. 

A Is for Oboe: The Orchestra’s Alphabet. By Lera Auerbach, Marilyn Nelson. Read by Thomas Quasthoff. 2022. 1hr. Listening Library, DD (9780593346228). Gr. 1–5

A poet and a composer have creatively teamed up to present the orchestra’s world through verse. This audio version of the picture book combines the deep, expressive voice of Thomas Quasthoff with musical accompaniments to illustrate the instruments and vocabulary for each verse. From the sound of a single instrument to the whole orchestra, the audio presents a much richer version of this book.  

Ain't Burned All the Bright. By Jason Reynolds. Take One read by Jason Reynolds. Take Two read by a full cast. 2022. .5hr. Simon & Schuster Audio, DD (9781797137544). Gr. 6+

What does it really mean to breathe? In this poem told in three parts, Jason Reynolds explores what it means to be Black in America in 2022. Listeners get to experience this piece twice, read once by Reynolds and a second time by a full cast. Each retelling brings something different to the story but both use the rhythm of spoken word to bring this poetry to life. 

Boys Will Be Human. By Justin Baldoni. Read by the author. 2022. 7hr. HarperAudio, DD (9780063067233). Gr. 6+

Raw, vulnerable, and intimate, this nonfiction book read by the author about what it means to grow up draws the listener into the conversation. Despite the sometimes-difficult topics presented, personal anecdotes and a willingness to be silly create a comfortable atmosphere keeping the audiobook authentic and honest.

Coraline. By Neil Gaiman. Read by a full cast. 2022. 3.5hr. HarperAudio, DD (9780063243255). Gr. 4+

When Coraline ventures through a mysterious door to find an uncanny version of her own home, she must use all her courage and cleverness to escape from this Other world. Gaiman’s beloved text is given new life in this full-cast recording in which each narrator, perfectly-cast, captures both the story’s magic, and its true horror.

Daughter of the White Rose. By Diane Zahler. Read by a full cast. 2022. 7hr. Live Oak Media, CD (9781430144823). Gr. 4–7

Set in medieval England during the reign of King Edward IV, this historical fiction narrative follows a common girl’s friendship with the young prince born on the same day as her. The full-cast narration enhances the story as the listener becomes immersed in the world of royalty, intrigue, and betrayal.  

Drita, My Homegirl. By Jenny Lombard. Read by Carlotta Brentan and Jeanette Illidge. 2022. 3hr. Listening Library, DD (9780593587676). Gr. 4+

Drita and her family flee war-torn Kosovo for America with dreams as well as struggles to adapt and fit in. Two skilled narrators use authentic accents and respectful dialects to help listeners navigate between main and secondary characters in this novel of friendship, culture, and survival.  

The First Helping (Lunch Lady Books 1 & 2). By Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Read by a full cast. 2022. 1hr. Listening Library, DD (9780593397145). K–Gr. 3

The first two books in Krosoczka’s beloved Lunch Lady graphic novel series get a refresh in this hilarious and cleverly adapted audiobook. An immersive soundscape and a talented full cast of narrators capture the energy and spirit of the books readers already know and love. (2023 Odyssey Honor)

Gallant. By V. E. Schwab. Read by Julian Rhind-Tutt. 2022. 7.5hr. HarperAudio, DD. (9780063220751). Gr. 6+

The listener is drawn into this eerie tale, reminiscent of a Vincent Price movie, through the effective and creative use of voice, pauses, and pace. The tone of the gripping story of a girl trying to solve the mysteries of her family’s past comes through, capturing and holding the attention of the listener.

Inheritance: A Visual Poem. By Elizabeth Acevedo. Read by the author. 2022. 5m.  HarperAudio, DD (9780063250390). Gr. 8+

With dynamic narration and exquisite emotional resonance, Acevedo’s poetic performance celebrates the multidimensional subject of Black hair in the context of the author’s Dominican identity. (2023 Odyssey Honor)

Isaiah Dunn Saves the Day. By Kelly J. Baptist. Read by Adam Lazarre-White. 2022. 5hr. Listening Library, DD (9780593560228). Gr. 4–7 

This versatile, talented narrator brings Isaiah’s start of middle school to life through culturally authentic use of tone, pace, and intonation. This sequel to Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero stands on its own.

Kapaemahu. By Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean Hamer, and Joe Wilson. Read by Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu. 2022. .5hr. Listening Library, DD (9780593605929). Gr. 2–6

This bilingual recording is an ode to a 15th Century Indigenous Hawaiian legend about healing and the Mahu people with dual male and female spirit. A rich soundscape and poignant narration enrich and extend the engaging text. 

Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, a Deaf Girl, Changed Percussion. By Shannon Stocker. Narrated by Elle Newlands. 17m. Listening Library, DD (9780593508985). PreS–Gr. 2

This picture book biography of a deaf girl who made her life about percussion is beautifully presented. Supported by a dynamic soundscape, the narrator effectively uses her voice in both the storyline and the distinct vocables.

Max and the Midknights: The Tower of Time. By Lincoln Peirce. Read by a full cast. 3hr. Listening Library, DD (9780593505601). Gr. 3–7

The medieval tale of a knight-in-training continues with book 3 of the Max and the Midknights series as Max strives to find her twin. The full cast, with each reader distinct and talented, feels like a cinematic experience, often inviting listeners to participate with humor and interactivity.

Mel Fell. By Corey R. Tabor. Illustrated by the author. Read by Noah Wall. 2022. 5.5m.  Weston Woods, CD and book (9781338837988). PreS–K

Upbeat background music complements Mel the kingfisher’s leap of faith, bringing it to life. As the stakes rise so does the tempo and intensity of the music. The narrator’s outstanding vocals capture an excited bird’s story.

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun. By Tolá Okogwu. Read by Nneka Okoye. 2022. 7.5hr. Simon & Schuster Audio, DD (9781797148953). Gr. 4+

Onyeka’s unruly afro hair has always made her feel different, but when she learns that it has psychokinetic super powers, everything changes. Nneka Okoye deftly switches between British and Nigerian accents, even using Pidgin English, adding authentic flair for listeners that pulls them even further into this story of self-discovery and acceptance.  

The Patron Thief of Bread. By Lindsay Eagar. Read by Moira Quirk. 2022. 12.5hr. Listening Library, DD (9780593632291). Gr. 6+

Moira Quirk’s nuanced performance brings to life a large cast of characters including a group of street urchins, a young thief turned baker’s apprentice, and a grumpy gargoyle who watches them all from a cathedral high above their medieval town.

The Peach Rebellion. By Wendelin Van Draanen. Narrated by Emily Ellet and Lauri Jo Daniels. 2022. 12h. Listening Library, DD (9780593584996). Gr. 8+

This story of childhood friends coming of age in the years following the Great Depression is brought to life by dual narrators who fully embody the young heroines. This recording captures issues of class, young love, and adolescence with the talents of two skilled performers.  

The Rainbow Parade. By Emily Neilson. Read by the author. 2022. 7m.  Listening Library, DD (9780593593486). PreS–Gr. 2

With perfect pacing, a rich soundscape, and lively narration, this joyful recording celebrates the LGBTQ+ community as a girl marches in a Pride parade with her two moms for the first time. Based on the author’s lived experience.

Real Pigeons Eat Danger (Book 2). By Andrew McDonald. Read by Sean Kenin Elias-Reyes. 2022. 2.75hr. Listening Library, DD (9780593560068). Gr. 2–6

Elias-Reyes presents a performance that immerses the listener in the adventures of a group of crime-fighting pigeons. Through effective vocal characterizations as well as balanced music and sound effects, the audio carries the story along as the pigeons work to solve cases in their park neighborhood.

The Road to After. By Rebekah Lowell. Read by Elena Rey. 2022. 2.5hr.  Listening Library, DD (9780593590287). Gr. 6+

Rey’s authentic narration chronicles eleven-year-old Lacey as she, her sisters, and her mother, flee their home after years living with domestic violence. With raw vulnerability, this nuanced performance sensitively captures a story of pain, trauma, and hope for renewal and recovery.  

Rules for Vampires. By Alex Foulkes. Read by Kristin Atherton. 2021. 9hr. Simon & Schuster Audio, DD (9781797134499). Gr. 4–7

The narrator’s vocal range captures Eleonora’s Birthnight perfectly. With a wide range of accents, this recording expands and elevates the text. A tale of vampires that is not canned or overdone.

Standing in the Need of Prayer. By Carole Boston Weatherford. Read and sung by the author. 2022. 19m. Listening Library, DD (9780593613702). Gr. 1–4

This retelling of the classic spiritual incorporates struggles and triumphs of African American history and is presented in a careful, authentic, and dynamic way by the author. Accented throughout by deliberately selected background music, the text is elevated when the author sings at the conclusion of the book in a beautifully personal way.

Stuntboy, in the Meantime. By Jason Reynolds. Read by a full cast. 2021. 2.5hr. Simon & Schuster Audio, DD. (9781508246237). Gr. 2–6

Portico's adventures in his apartment building are brought to life in a dynamic and playful way that transports the listener in this high energy and thrilling chapter book. With a full cast and a soundscape that blends seamlessly with the narration, listeners will not be able to help being drawn into the fun. (2023 Odyssey Award for Children)

This is Music: Drums. By Rekha S. Rajan.  Read by the author.  2022. 7m. Listening Library, DD (9780593634530). PreS–Gr. 1
This is Music: Horns.  By Rekha S. Rajan.  Read by the author.  2022. 8m. Listening Library, DD (9780593634554). PreS–Gr. 1

This introduction to a family of musical instruments for our youngest listeners is dynamic and engaging. Listeners hear the different types of instruments in the family during the introduction of the book. The sounds are then matched with the name, purpose, and other facts for each specific instrument. Listeners are invited to “name that sound” at the end of the recording.  

The Three Billy Goats Gruff. By Mac Barnett. Read by the author. 2022. 20m. Scholastic Inc., DD (9781338897616). PreS–Gr. 2.

Filled with music, forest sounds, and talented narration, this retelling of a classic folk tale is brought to life through Mac Barnett's ability to capture energy and humor coupled with the zestful soundscape. (2023 Odyssey Honor)

Three Strike Summer. By Skyler Schrempp. Read by the author. 2022. 7hr. Simon & Schuster Audio, DD (9781797148182). Gr. 5+

From dried-up farmland to the peach orchards of California, Gloria Mae and her family are barely surviving the Great Depression. This novel reveals challenges faced by 1930’s crop pickers and the heart of a young girl set on playing baseball. A single narrator (the author) adeptly delivers multiple characters and emotional tension using no bells and whistles, just powerful pacing and believable Oklahoma accents.

Watercress. By Andrea Wang. Illustrated by Jason Chin. Read by Sunny Lu. 2022. 8m. Weston Woods, CD and book, (9781338835434). PreS–Gr. 2.

A young girl is embarrassed when her family stops to gather watercress from a roadside ditch. She has a change of heart when her parents share their stories of life in China over dinner. The audio elevates the text authentically and gently. The background music is culturally respectful.

When Grandfather Flew. By Patricia MacLachlan. Illustrated by Chris Sheban. Read by Katie Schorr and George Guidall. 2022. 9m. Live Oak Media, CD and book (9781430144953). K–Gr. 3

This picture book recording offers listeners a full sensory experience. Bird calls, sound effects, even pleasing contrasts between characters, are presented by two skilled narrators who evoke this love story between a grandfather’s awe and reverence for birds and his grandchildren's affection for the man who taught them to pay attention. 

Wishes. By Mượn Thị Văn. Illustrated by Victo Ngai. Read by Mượn Thị Văn. Music by Ernest Troost. 2021. 17m. Weston Woods, CD and book, (9781338826005). PreS–Gr. 2 

With subtle background music and sound effects, Văn narrates this emotional story of escape and starting over. The audio conveys the emotions of the journey and provides an immersive experience when paired with the text and illustrations.

2023 Notable Children's Recordings Committee

Jessica Gillis, chair, retired school librarian, Cambridge, MA
Becki Bishop, Campbell Court Elementary School, Bassett, VA
Katie Clausen, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL
Martha J.C. Cole, retired, Chesapeake Public Library, VA
Katherine M. Heebsh, Toledo Lucas County Public Library, OH
Isabelle Ibibo, Multnomah County Public Library - North Portland, OR
Nancy Johnson, retired, Western Washington University, Bellingham, WA  
Jessica Hilbun Schwartz, Louisville Public Library, CO
Mary Voors, retired, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN