Friday, May 8, 2009

Beyond the Book: Voice of Audiobooks

8:30-9:45 Friday, May 8 Beyond the Book: Voice of Audiobooks

Speakers: Mary Burkey, Teacher-Librarian, Olentangy Liberty School District, Columbus, Ohio; Johnny Heller, Narrator, Recorded Books

Mary Burkey, Teacher-Librarian, Olentangy Liberty School District, Columbus, Ohio

I'm a big fan of audiobooks. I usually hit the audiobook section first at my local library. I am eager to hear about the voice behind the books. Mary gives some background information. With all due respect to Mary, we are really waiting to hear the voice and passion behind audiobooks--Johnny Heller. Read on!

Mary Burkey began by exclaiming that she is an audiobook evangelist. Audio literature has its roots in oral storytelling. Mary talks about the stigma of listening to audiobooks. Many believe audiobooks are for those who can't handle the real thing.

Mary has a blog: where she often highlights free downloads. Right now you can get "Pendragon" for free.

Why do we listen to audiobooks? We love to hear the story. Many parents think kids are cheating by listening to the audiobook version. Mary says there are now workbooks that accompany the audiobook. Kids must be actively listening. There is still a strong language component that Mary says helps with language development and vocabulary. Audiobooks helps Mary with her speech.

Mary also talks about how easy it is for her to listen to audiobooks while being very active. She explains that people she knows use audiobooks when they are exercising or playing video games. Learning how to listen is an art, and even while listening on the move, listening slows down, too.

The interpretation of the book is enhanced. Mary remembers details of listening to audiobooks, even details such as where she was and if in her car, where her car was located. Listening has great power. Even NPR understands this, as evident in "Driveway Moments", a collection of captivating stories. Who among us can honestly say they have never been captivated by the telling of a story.

Booklist, booklinks (school setting), horn book (small but good section), audiofile magazine (online at offers great reviews and listings of audiobooks.

Johnny Heller, Narrator, Recorded Books
Johnny is currently working on a young adult book. He is, evidently, something of a stand-up comedian. If you have never listened to Johnny narrate a book, you should check one out. I cannot do justice to the power of his voice in dictating the ebb and flow of a story.

Johnny says that when he reads in the studio, he reads from xerox copies, not the book. Johnny also saves parts of the copies that offer a great opportunity to read to audiences such as ours. Johnny read excerpts from a children's book, a YA book, and an adult book. I must say Johnny's voice is electric! I've listened to him many times on recordings from Recorded Books. Johnny represents one of the main reasons why listening to audiobooks is so fascinating: it can be absolutely entertaining and funny, especially with the acting and inflection of the reader.
Johnny began by reading from "Hey, New Kid!", chapter 2: "Little dork that couldn't." He then read from "Al Capone does my shirts", chapter five, to be exact. He then read an excerpt from "Marley and Me." Marley and Me, Johnny explains, is one of his favorite books. With time left, Johnny decides to read from Dave Barry.

Johnny answered a few questions you might find interesting. He says he reads for three hour stretches in the studio. He explains that it is important for him to read the book first to make sure the voice is correct and pronunciation is observed. Mary jumps in to explain that part of critical listening is to pick up on accents. Johnny does his homework to get some inflection, pronunciation and accents correctly.

Find out more about Johnny Heller here: Johnny Heller

Listen to Johnny at audiofilemagazine

As a special treat Johnny read from "Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar." Am I spoiled, or what? What a treat! I couldn't stop laughing!!

Check out the session handout and suggested title lists available online. Here it is again: Audiobook blog

Happy listening audiobook fans!!!

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