Judy’s Audiobooks: Middle Grades
I recommended the young actress Halley Feiffer to record Blubber. I knew Halley from the Vineyard, had seen her on stage several times, and was sure she’d be able to capture the voice of fifth grader Jill Brenner. And she did.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Meeting Laura Hamilton
I was in Chicago on a book tour, scheduled to read on stage at the Steppenwolf Theater. The event was a fundraiser for the local ACLU. It might have been Banned Books Week. I’m not sure. Anyway, I was going to read from Deenie and I was very excited. Then, the night before, while attending a dinner party, my voice shut down. Totally. The only sound I could make was a squeak. I’d been a bit under the weather but wasn’t sick – no sore throat, no cold. So what was going on? This was scary. It was decided by some people at the dinner party that I should be taken to the ER. The docs there weren’t able to determine the cause without doing a number of tests. I refused because I’m allergic to benzocaine and they wanted to numb my throat. An appointment was set up for me with the head of the department the following morning. I sat up all night worrying that my throat would close. George humored me and held my hand. The next morning I saw the doctor who dropped a “scop” from my nose to my throat and discovered I had a sinus infection that had gone to my vocal cords. He gave me the appropriate meds and told me I could not use my voice (not that I had any voice) — and that even whispering could damage my vocal cords.
Cut to — a young woman, Laura Hamilton, who worked at the ACLU office and had professional training as an actor. She was enlisted to read for me that night. I was told I’d have to stand next to her on stage. Standing on stage and doing nothing struck me as bizarre. Besides, I was concerned about someone I didn’t know, someone I’d never heard, reading from Deenie. I’d selected a scene that always gets big laughs from the audience and suppose she didn’t get the humor? But I couldn’t argue. (I had no voice!) So there I was, on stage next to Laura. I felt so foolish. And then Laura began to read. And she was wonderful — very funny — the audience loved her and so did I. I couldn’t have done it as well myself.
Laura and I bonded that night. We sat next to each other at dinner and I scribbled with a crayon on the paper table cloth, asking questions and answering hers.
When the time came to record Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret I suggested Laura. She got the gig and came to NY for the recording session. She’s the perfect Margaret. She’s funny and warm. I like to say she gave all my characters Chicago accents instead of New York or New Jersey ones but who cares? She captures the feelings in the book and that’s what counts.
Laura has recorded numerous books since then, including The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo and Freckle Juice (together on one CD).
Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself
I recorded Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself because it’s my most autobiographical book. Sally is one of my favorite characters, maybe because she’s based on the kind of imaginative, curious, ritualistic child I was at ten. Jacob Bronstein, a producer from Listening Library came down to Key West for a couple of days and we worked in a local studio. Sally is a longer book to read aloud than the Fudge books and on the second day I developed a hoarse voice. Melody, who owns and operates the recording studio with her husband, made me cup after cup of tea. I think it took an extra half day to record the book because of all those bathroom breaks! Some day I’ll be brave enough to listen to the recording.