Saturday, October 17, 2009

Surrender your ears to the audiobook of The Surrender Tree?

I am a huge fan of audiobooks. I consume at least one a week during my short commute to work. In preparation for the Americas Award Ceremony today in DC, I listened to the audiobook version of Margarita Engle's The Surrender Tree (winner of a Newbery Honor, Belpre Author Award, and the Americas Award). I absolutely LOVED the book in traditional, paper format and was excited to be on the committee awarding it this year's Americas Award.

As soon as I saw an audiobook version of Engle's moving novel, I practically knocked over three teens at my local public library to get my hands on it. This was going to be my appetizer to the Americas Award celebration feast! Unfortunately, after Margartia's short introduction on the audio, my ears were accosted by the apathetic voice of the reader for the character Rosa in the book. I couldn't decide if the reader was longing for a better job beyond her life as audiobook reader (letting her deflated exasperation seep into the ears of her listener) or if she thought young listeners really couldn't care about the inflection and cadence that should be present when reading poetry. Regardless of her motivation, the reader's lack of interest in her role as Rosa was glaringly obvious and would have made any voice coach cringe with embarrassment.

After the first 5 minutes, her voice became so grating that I started to reach for the eject button on my car stereo. However, I rarely give up on a book -audio or print - and decided to endure the rest of the audiobook. I had hopes that our dear Rosa reader would gain some enthusiasm or momentum over the course of our week together. Maybe, as she was reading, she could dream about the lush landscapes she was describing or at least dream of the shopping trip she'd take after her work for Listening Library was complete. Alas, this was not to be! As I was pulling into my parking spot on Thursday evening, I gave a great sigh of relief when the last few words of the audio were uttered, and went in search of something to relieve my audio indigestion.

Bottom line dear readers - The Surrender Tree is a magnificently, wonderful book that should find its way into the hands of upper-elementary, middle, and high school readers. The print version of Engle's novel-in-prose holds great potential for opening young minds to the injustices of the world. The audiobook version has great potential for audio acid reflux - unless you want young minds to stumble and never enjoy audiobooks again, steer them far, far away.

Meanwhile, my ears are ringing and I'm off to find a better book beat.

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