This is only the Odyssey Award‘s 2nd year, but as a huge fan of audiobooks, I’m keeping an eye on it.  The quality of an audiobook can really make a huge difference – the right reader, the right accents or voices, sound quality, all of that.  A good one will hook you into a story that you might otherwise pass by, or bring to life a book you already love.  A bad one – well, let’s not talk about how painful they can be.

This year’s award went to The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, written and read by Sherman Alexie.  I read the book when it came out, and I loved not only the tone but the perfect blend of heartbreak and humor.  I started listening to the audio version yesterday and I’m loving it.  The only problem with the audio version is that you miss out on the great illustrations, which are meant to be Junior’s own work.  But that’s easily remedied by taking a peek at the physical book.  Alexie doesn’t try to do voices, which is perfect since Junior is narrating the story.

He reads with the Indian lilt that Junior describes in the story, which really gives the feel of the story for readers who don’t have that voice in their head.  I don’t know about anyone else, but when I read a book, I “hear” it in my own accent, regardless of the accent of the character.  So I love listening to books with accents in audio format, because it reminds me that not all the characters sound like me.  Kind of like listening to I Am the Messenger read in an Australian accent – it gives a different feel to the whole book.  So obviously Alexie knows the right voice for the book – and his fairly straight delivery is perfect for that realistic blend of brutal reality and laughing so hard you look crazy going for a walk with your ipod.

I haven’t listened to any of the Odyssey honors yet:

  • Curse of the Blue Tattoo by L. A. Meyer; narrated by Katherine Kellgren
  • Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis; narrated by Mirron Willis
  • I’m Dirty written by Kate and Jim McMullan; narrated by Steve Buscemi
  • Martina, the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale written and narrated by Carmen Agra Deedy
  • Nation by Terry Pratchett; narrated by Stephen Briggs

Nation is in my to-read pile right now, and I thought about requesting the audiobook but the holds list went crazy before I thought of it.  I read Elijah of Buxton but didn’t quite love it enough to reread it on audio.  Once someone orders the audio of Blue Tattoo, I’ll give that a listen, since I really enjoyed the first book in the series.  The other two books look a big younger – and it’s nice to see the variety of ages happily coexisting in the award – YA, middle grade, and picture books.