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Listening Corner

Star Wars (Hodder, six tapes Pounds 3.99 each, 55 mins each) has gripped the imagination of so many, young and old, that it seems churlish to object to further exposure. And certainly this impressive production, using the score and sound-effects from the original film and voices by Star Wars stars Anthony Daniels and Mark Hamill (as See Threepio and Luke Skywalker) holds magnetic power for boys aged eight to 11. To adult ears, the thin characterisation and predictable plot are all the more glaringly obvious without the spectacular visuals. For this age-group of boys, however, that did not seem to matter.

Aurally, it is still a smooth offering, with great surges of sound substituting for emotion. Although each tape forms a self-contained episode, you really need all six to get the whole sweep of the story, which is the same as the film - outsider comes from nowhere, takes on the might of an evil empire and causes its destruction, in the process wreaking Oedipal revenge on his wicked father .

Quite the contrary is true for the Adventures of the Secret Seven (Hodder, four tapes Pounds 3.99 each, 40 mins each) which offers a charmingly 1950s-style creaky dramatisation of the adventures of the sanitised conspirators. Despite a decidedly less-than-perfect production, Blyton's essential genius as a plotter of mischief, secret and reward is amply demonstrated in Three Cheers Secret Seven, Well Done Secret Seven, The Secret Seven and Secret Seven Win Through. Grumpy farmers, mysterious lights at night, horses hidden in cellars and, of course, passwords, dens and slap-up teas (what has happened to the slap-up tea? Has it been replaced by a trip to the burger bar?) ring just the same bells for children aged five to 11as they did 30 years ago .

Even more creaky, completely eccentric and strange but yet compelling is Gerach's Road by Tony Wilson (Pounds 6 inc pp, 75 mins from 124 Beach Road, South Shields, Tyne and Wear NE33 2NE, tel: 0191 454 1731). A Celtic tale, steeped in magic, mayhem and murky situations, it lurches through such perennial favourites as trials of strength, magic feasts, fratricide and tests of friendship. Tony Wilson, a sometime professional folksinger and obsessive computer-games player, is bang on the wavelength of children aged seven to 11. His flat, hynoptic Geordie voice and his boxy-sounding acoustic guitar hypnotise listeners and, despite the lack of any professional-sounding crashes and crises, make for a more compelling experience than the glossy Star Wars.

At the nursery end of things, Monster and Frog Mind the Baby by Rose Impey, read by Emma Wray (Collins, Pounds 3.99, 15 minutes a side, one side with sound effects, one with turn-the page notes), offers a soothing account of how to settle a fractious infant. The solution - a dummy - will no doubt strike a chord in many a young listener. Others in the series, Monster's Terrible Toothache, Monster and Frog get Fit, Monster and Frog at Sea, offer similar comforting insights into infant life in the 1990s.

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