Friday, February 24, 2017

Audiobook Mini-Reviews: The Book of Unknown Americans and Brown Girl Dreaming

When their daughter Maribel has a terrible accident, Arturo and Alma make the difficult decision to move to America to get her the best possible care. The Rivera family moves into an apartment complex with residents from Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and Panama. Maribel soon becomes friend with Mayor Toro, a boy who sees her as just beautiful and not someone who sometimes becomes confused or loses her train of thought. Just as the Riveras begin to settle into their new life and Maribel and Mayor see the start of a romance, things begin to fall apart with devastating and irreversible consequences.

This book was fantastic in so many ways. I loved the universal story of parents trying to make the best life possible for their child and young love, and I loved the specificity of Henriquez writing vignettes from many people in the apartment complex that describe their journeys to America. The Book of Unknown Americans is a full cast audiobook, which means you get a different narrator for each character. This was an inspired choice and it made the lives and stories of each person you meet seem real. I highly recommend listening to this book if you want to read it.

The Book of Unknown Americans
By Christina Henriquez
Penguin Random House June 2014
9 hours, 12 minutes
From my library

Jacqueline Woodson's childhood spanned the 1960s and 1970s all the way from New York City to South Carolina. In Brown Girl Dreaming, she tells her story in verse as she remembers frequent moves, a childhood that was both idyllic and troubled, and her growing realization that she was meant to be a writer.

This book is one of the few that manages to effortlessly blend a specific moment in American history with a universal story about growing up. It's a book that is marketed as middle grade, but it is resonating deeply with readers of all ages. Woodson reads her own book and you can hear her wryly remembering moments of humor and the grief she still carries from the tough times. While many readers adored this as an audiobook, I think I would have been better off reading it in print. It's tough to fully appreciate the writing when your experience is interrupted by a kid's request or the oven timer going off. In spite of this, I can appreciate why it is both important and much beloved and I will certainly remember this book for my kids to read.

Brown Girl Dreaming
By Jacqueline Woodson
Penguin Random House August 2014
3 hours, 55 minutes
From my library


  1. Both sound good. I love Woodson's picture books, and I've been meaning to read Brown Girl Dreaming for a couple of years now. But you know how that goes. :)

    1. Oh, I do know. May we keep moving slowly but surely through our tbr lists!

  2. I've never listened to a full cast audiobook before. That sounds intriguing, and it sounds like a good book to do it for!

    1. It was a great choice for this book in particular. I'm going to have to find some more that are recorded that way now!