Today, as part of my personal Newbery project, I present two medalists that were enhanced by the audiobook format.
Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! is a collection of monologues originally written for students at the Park School in Baltimore, where Schlitz works as a librarian. Schlitz started the collection as a way of bringing the students’ study of the Middle Ages to life. In her introduction Schlitz reveals that as a child she didn’t much care for history until she discovered historical fiction. She wrote her monologues hoping to prove to the students how accessible the past can be. Schlitz chose the monologue format – instead of a single play – because she wanted to give each child an equal part. I appreciated that, although Schlitz was striving for equality, she still allowed for shorter, less demanding monologues, designed for children who want to participate but don’t necessarily want to soak up the spotlight. I was never one of those children but I’ve been told they exist?
I would have been a prime audience for this book as a child. I never really thought much of the Middle Ages. The only time I remember getting remotely excited about the period is when I toured a reconstructed Viking village in York, England. The claim to fame there was that the creators had painstakingly re-created all the myriad Middle Age smells for your olfactory pleasure. Yeah, fun times. Reading Schlitz’s book is a similar experience, only heavier on the social history, lighter on the sniffs. Had I read this book as a kid or been asked to perform one of the monologues, I have no doubt I’d have been more interested in the period as a whole.
This was excellent material for an audiobook. Monologues are meant to be read aloud and, since school plays don’t often visit my living room, this was a good substitute. But it was a little disconcerting hearing adult voices perform material clearly meant for children. Come to think of it, I’ve never heard a child actor on an audiobook. I guess it’s just easier to use adults.
Given the format, I can’t imagine reading this, as opposed to listening to it. But of course that’s how most people experience this book. Those of you who did read the book, what did you think? Did you read silently or read the speeches aloud? I am sad that I missed Byrd’s illustrations. Did they add to the experience?
Since Saturday is narrated by four first person narrators, along with one third person limited narrator, it too was a great audiobook. While listening, it occurred to me that, like Good Masters!, this too is a collection of monologues and therefore perfect for the audio format. The full cast recording made this classic even more poignant. A highly recommended recording.