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May 1, 2009 Edition

The Willoughbys, by Lois Lowry, read by Arte Johnson


Johnson’s deadpan tone hits just the right note for this satire of “old-fashioned” books. The four Willoughby children are sure they are just like children in old-fashioned books – except that, wish as they might, they aren’t orphans. While they hatch a plan to rid themselves of their parents, their despicable parents are scheming to get rid of them! Just as in any good old-fashioned story, there’s a nanny, an abandoned baby in a wicker basket, a millionaire benefactor with a tragic past, and a long-lost heir. And, just as in any good story in any genre, there’s humor, challenges, and a happy ending.

The Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, by Rick Riordan, read by Jesse Bernstein


The first four books (The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan's Curse, and The Battle of the Labyrinth) starring Percy, a half-human, half-Greek god teenager, are all available as both audiobooks and audio downloads from ListenAlaska. Bernstein does a great job conveying Percy’s initial mystification and eventual acceptance of his demigod status, and voicing characters as diverse as Percy’s friend, Grover, and the god of gods himself, Zeus. Percy’s life has really changed since he discovered he is a demigod. Now, instead of worrying about passing pre-algebra, he’s tracking down Zeus’ stolen lightning bolts and rescuing kidnapped goddesses despite prophecies of failure by the oracle. And with his friends, a satyr and the half-human daughter of Athena, he’s finding he’s capable of nearly anything.

Give Peas a Chance, by Morris Gleitzman, read by Gleitzman and Ruth Shoenheimer


This fast-paced collection of funny stories may have your ears scrambling to keep up for the first moment or two, but it won’t take long for the readers’ Australian accents to disappear as you are pulled into Gleitzman’s wacky world. It’s a world in which world peace can be achieved through a kids’ strike – on vegetables. One in which the quick-thinking son of a motel-owning family buys his parents some naptime by keeping their guests (especially the adults!) quietly busy. And one in which global warming can be solved by the invention of a new tomato. Gleitzman knows his audience and offers stories with points, twists, and the occasional bit of grossness.

Starcross, by Philip Reeve, read by Greg Steinbruner


This sequel to the delightful “Larklight” (also available as an audiobook) sends the brother and sister duo of Art and Myrtle Mumby off for a seaside vacation with their mum (who just happens to be a powerful and ancient superhuman). Recuperating from saving the Earth from giant spiders bent on destroying all life, the brother and sister are eager to visit Starcross, a luxury seaside resort in the asteroid belt, but they soon discover they’ve landed back in trouble again. There is no sea at Starcross, instead, the resort is filled with man-eating starfish, French spies, and black top hats. As Myrtle and Art struggle to keep their wits (sometimes literally), they acquire an army of sentient sea creatures, take a time-travel journey to Mars, and eventually, save the world again. Reeve’s fertile imagination, which brought ravenous, mobile cities to life in the Hungry Cities series, has conjured up an alternate history Victorian England, one in which the British rule not only the American colonies, but also Venus, Mars, and Jupiter’s moons. His sense of humor weaves this mix of Proper Novel, science fiction, and whodunit into a wonderful whole that is hard to pause and even harder to hear end.

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