Archives For SYNC audiobooks

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Jane Eyre audio offered by SYNC YA

This summer I have been visiting the family estate at Gateshead, the harsh boarding school Lowood, and the Gothic mansion called Thornfield Hall through the audio download of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre courtesy of SYNC YA. This free audiobook uses Overdrive software which is on both my computer and my mobile phone. As the recording of Jane Eyre is about eight hours long, the ability to move from device to device has proved most helpful in finishing the book.

This is not my first experience with this novel. I read the book when I was a teenager, and, like Jane, I fell in love with Mr. Rochester. Years later, I taught the book later to Advanced Placement students and marveled at Jane’s independence, her morality, and her ability to emphatically say “No” to the persistently persuasive Rochester.  Now, I am struck by Jane’s role as a governess and how Bronte characterizes attitudes towards that profession in Victorian England.

At one of Rochester’s soirees, Bronte has the spoiled but beautiful Blanche Ingram recount how she and her brother and sister, tormented their governesses and tutors as as they grew up. The incident begins when Blanche’s mother, Mrs. Ingram, calls the guests’ attention to Jane, isolated in a corner of the room. “I have just one word to say of the whole tribe,” whispers Blanche’s mother loud enough for Jane to hear, “they are a nuisance.”

Blanche cheerfully counters:

Not that I ever suffered much from them; I took care to turn the tables. What tricks Theodore and I used to play on our Miss Wilsons, and Mrs. Greys, and Madame Jouberts! Mary was always too sleepy to join in a plot with spirit. The best fun was with Madame Joubert: Miss Wilson was a poor sickly thing, lachrymose and low-spirited, not worth the trouble of vanquishing, in short; and Mrs. Grey was coarse and insensible; no blow took effect on her.

Not satisfied with those affronts to those poor teachers, Bronte has Blanche continue the list the indignities inflicted on one particular governess who was subjected to especially bad behavior from the Ingram children:

But poor Madame Joubert! I see her yet in her raging passions, when we had driven her to extremities–spilt our tea, crumbled our bread and butter, tossed our books up to the ceiling, and played a charivari with the ruler and desk, the fender and fire-irons. Theodore, do you remember those merry days?”

Blanche’s condemnation of those who tried to educate her backfires; Bronte’s desire to have the reader dislike this rival for Rochester’s affection is deliberate. Jane’s quiet moral intelligence wins out in the end.

Listening to the story, I considered that Bronte was making a case for the importance of education as a means to rise out of poverty. Jane’s education at the Lowood Institute, a boarding school, was hazardous and purchased at a terrible price. Her classmate, Helen, dies because of the stark conditions at Lowood, mirroring the real-life death of Bronte’s sister, Maria, who died from tuberculosis contracted because of hunger, cold, and privation at Cowan Bridge School. Despite the treacherous conditions, however, Bronte revisits the theme of education’s importance as it provided the character Jane with an independent profession. She is hired to teach Rochester’s ward Adele, and she proves to be a successful governess.

The conflict between Bronte’s belief that education was one way for a young woman to earn a small income, to have a marketable profession, clashes with the upper classes’s view of the teaching profession in 1847. Therefore, how disappointing to read polls (2009-2012) about contemporary economics of the teaching profession that demonstrate that a century and a half later, not much has changed. According to The Economix blog on the NYTimes, “Does it Pay to Become a Teacher?”, salary  may reduce attracting high quality graduates to the teaching profession:

The average primary-school teacher in the United States earns about 67 percent of the salary of a average college-educated worker in the United States. The comparable figure is 82 percent across the overall Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (O.E.C.D.). For teachers in lower secondary school (roughly the years Americans would call middle school), the ratio in the United States is 69 percent, compared to 85 percent across the O.E.C.D. The average upper secondary teacher earns 72 percent of the salary for the average college-educated worker in the United States, compared to 90 percent for the overall O.E.C.D.

The findings also point out that teachers in the USA teach over 1000 hours annually, an amount well over the hours of their international peers. That number does not include time for preparation, training, or assessing. The article concludes:

Given the opportunity costs of becoming a teacher instead of using your college degree to enter another, more remunerative field, are the psychic rewards of teaching great enough to convince America’s best and brightest to become educators?

Bronte was one of England’s best and brightest who advocated education, but Bronte knew that teaching was not an economically successful profession. Jane Eyre only becomes financially independent when a relative leaves her a fortune; she only becomes wealthy when she confesses, “Reader, I married him.”

Over 150 years after Charlotte Bronte’s novel, the teaching profession still has its critics; there are real life Mrs. Ingrams and Blanches who hold the profession in contempt. There are also economic drawbacks to choosing the profession, as demonstrated in the O.E.C.D poll.

In the 21st Century, the teaching profession should be desirable to those who aspire to teach, but who, like Jane, want to be financially independent. Teachers should not have to wait for a Mr. Rochester in order to prosper.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 4.32.55 PMWhile some of my students have no problem cracking open a good book over the summer, others might prefer an audio text. That is why when I found the SYNC audiobook website, I was delighted to spread the word (and recorded voices) about great literature available all summer long. I have challenged my students to read (listen) with me all summer!

SYNC has organized a summer full of classics paired with young adult (YA) texts that are similar in theme. Each pairing is available only for a download for a short period of time, but once a reader downloads the MP3 files, the audiobook is available for listening at any time.

The software that makes this offer possible is  Overdrive Media Software that can be installed on a computer (compatible with Windows and Mac) or through an Overdrive App on a mobile device (compatible with iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7).

Visit the OverDrive website to download the App or Software.

I have already listened to the full cast production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and enjoyed the dramatization. My familiarity with this play (I teach this every fall to my Advanced Placement Literature students) may influence how I think a student hearing the production for the first time might understand the plot. I hope they can follow some of the plot intricacies.

Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 4.29.30 PMI was surprised that the play was paired with Of Poseidon, a romantic fantasy involving a independent and beautiful Emma and her strange encounters with the incredibly handsome Gaylen.  I would have paired this book with Romeo and Juliet because the inferences about clan conflicts are too frequent not to imagine “two houses both alike in dignity, in the fair ocean where we lay our scene.” This debut novel by Anna Banks addresses mermaid lore, the legend of Atlantis, and forbidden love on the Jersey Shore. Unlike the TV show, listeners are 75% into the book before the first kiss; there is a great deal of “raising her chin with his fingers” and “cheek-stroking” to keep romantics hopeful. The reader (Rebecca Gibel) was also excellent, lacing some of the more exclamatory phrases with the right amounts of sarcasm or ruefulness.  My only complaint was that this novel is the first in a series. As I got closer to the end of the recording, I began to realize that this novel was the “introductory”, a sentiment seconded by this reviewer:

This book also ends in a most inopportune place. I get it – we’re being set up for the second book – but this book sort of has this massive reveal and then BAM we’re at the end. I’d seen enough people’s reactions, though, to expect it, so I wasn’t quite as upset as some readers have been with the abrupt ending. Still, not a whole lot is resolved in this book, and I have a problem with a book that didn’t seem to have much of a point aside from setting up for the next one. (Merin; Amazon Book Review)

Complaining about a free download, however, seems ungrateful. Like the reviewer, I enjoyed the novel very much, so much that I was annoyed when all the loose ends were not resolved. Obviously, this is one way for SYNC to market additional texts. In this case, the strategy will work; I probably will purchase the sequel.

The schedule for titles downloads during this summer is listed below:

May 30 – June 5, 2013
Of Poseidon by Anna Banks, read by Rebecca Gibel (AudioGO)
The Tempest by William Shakespeare, read by a Full Cast (AudioGO)

June 6 – June 12, 2013
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood, read by Katherine Kellgren (HarperAudio)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, read by Wanda McCaddon (Tantor Audio)

June 13 – June 19, 2013
The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Will Patton (Scholastic Audiobooks)
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, read by Robert Ramirez (Recorded Books)

June 20 – June 26, 2013
Once by Morris Gleitzman, read by Morris Gleitzman (Bolinda Audio)
Letter From Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King, Jr., read by Dion Graham (christianaudio)

June 27 – July 3, 2013
Rotters by Daniel Kraus, read by Kirby Heyborne (Listening Library)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, read by Jim Weiss (Listening Library)

July 4 – July 10, 2013
Carter Finally Gets It by Brent Crawford, read by Nick Podehl (Brilliance Audio)
She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith, read by a Full Cast (L.A. Theatre Works)

July 11 – July 17, 2013
The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann, read by Peter Altschuler (HarperAudio)
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, read by Simon Vance (Tantor Audio)

July 18 – July 24, 2013
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers, read by Erin Moon (Recorded Books)
Hamlet by William Shakespeare, read by a Full Cast (L.A. Theatre Works)

July 25 – July 31, 2013
The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen, read by Charlie McWade (Scholastic Audiobooks)
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain, read by Steve West (Blackstone Audio)

Aug 1 – Aug 7, 2013
Death Cloud by Andrew Lane, read by Dan Weyman (Macmillan Audio)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle, read by Ralph Cosham (Blackstone Audio)

Aug 8 – Aug 14, 2013
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis, read by Katherine Kellgren (Brilliance Audio)
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, read by Miriam Margolyes (Bolinda Audio)

Aug 15 – Aug 21, 2013
Sold by Patricia McCormick, read by Justine Eyre (Tantor Audio)
Let Me Stand Alone by Rachel Corrie, read by Tavia Gilbert (Blackstone Audio)

I am looking forward to a summer full of great audiotexts, and I hope my students will take advantage as well. Thank you, SYNC!