Today I’m honoring Katherine Kellgren, a renowned actress who voice acted more than 250 audiobooks. This month is the anniversary of her passing from a long battle with cancer that ended on 10 January, 2018.
Kellgren is one of my all-time favourite audiobook performers; her voice acting brings characters to life like no other, and the array of voices, tones, accents, and textures she blends into her performances enriches stories well beyond how they present in text. It’s thanks to Kellgren I was able to enjoy numerous children’s series in audiobook form because she made those books dynamic and exciting beyond the page.
Two particular series she narrated stay close to my heart, and I’ve re-listened to them multiple times because they’re so outrageously fun. They each feature clever, can-do attitude young women forging paths for themselves in historic settings. The Enola Holmes Mysteries series by Nancy Springer follows young adolescent Miss Enola Holmes on her pursuit of establishing herself as a scientific perditorian–a detective and crime-solver who uses her analytical skills, research, and disguises to get to the bottom of mysteries and hopefully make the world a bit more livable for women. Enola’s clever repurposings for the trappings of womanhood and feminine knowledge help her solve numerous mysteries and stay out of the hands of her patriarchal brothers Sherlock and Mycroft, who throughout the series try to track her down and send her off to a boarding school where she’ll be stripped of her freedom and forced to learn to be a Proper Lady. Springer’s writing is witty, with exciting suspense elements and well-designed mysteries that will appeal to youths and adults who love youth literature.
In L. A. Meyer’s Bloody Jack Adventures, Kellgren’s incredible voice acting and mastery of accents and prosody comes full-force with the wide cast of characters young Jacky Faber meets throughout the series. Jacky Faber, formerly Little Mary Faber of the Rooster Charlie gang, escapes sure death as an orphan on the streets of London by disguising herself as a boy and signing on as a naval ship’s boy on the S.S. Dolphin. Narrowly avoiding discovery and subsequent peril, Jacky picks up skills on the Dolphin and wins friends with her charm and wits. She combines her streetsmarts with the formal education she gains on her escapades to make her way in the world, enjoy life, protect her friends, and follow her dreams of having a successful world-wide shipping company. Ever the opportunist, Jacky is constantly scheming ways to make money while doing her friends a good turn, which brings her into increasingly thrilling exploits and ventures across land and sea. And she’s always getting in trouble for relishing her freedom and doing what she pleases in a world that reprimands women and the marginalized for trying to survive, but she always comes out on top. Readers are sure to enjoy these fast-paced, well-researched books that blend fun, courage, and optimism into a grand account of a plucky young woman’s adventures.
Whether you’ve enjoyed these series in print and want to relive them with Kellgren’s dynamic voicing, or you’re an audiobook fan interested in great narrators, historical fiction, and adventure stories, I hope you find some joy in these and other titles from Kellgren’s repertoire.