Listening Corner

There's a hole in the road and Postman Pat can't deliver his letter. Will PC Selby be able to help?" I think all of us Postman Pat fans will be able to answer that one. PC Selby, a famous ditherer, will get all moithered in his notebook and call for a brew of tea - and that's exactly what happens in Postman Pat and the Hole in the Road (Hodder book and tape, Pounds 9.99). When it comes to moving diversions, Alf's your man. He's the one on the tractor. No pettifogging regulations for him. Thanks, Alf! And the mail will get through. Phew.

You can always count on the simple verities with Pat: the mail will get through, Jess will miaou inscrutably, Miss Hubbard will freak out in a genteel sort of way, Granny Dryden will shake her head in mild wonder. No surprises, either, in Postman Pat and the Suit of Armour and Postman Pat in a Muddle (Hodder, Pounds 9 each) but lots of the kind of innocent fun that three to seven-year-olds have been enjoying for the past two decades, learning to read and sampling a kind of Arcadia where the worst thing that can happen is a lost letter or hat. These are all new stories, with handsome, large hardback books. Hippo has reissued the old ones in a much smaller book and tape format (Pounds 3.99 each). Both sets have music, both are read by Ken Barrie, both will have huge and deserved sales.

Mick Inkpen is always entertaining. Kipper's Snowy Day (Hodder, Pounds 12.99) is another of his whimsical explorations of natural phenomena, like his earlier Blue Balloon. As balloons burst, so snow melts (which surprises Kipper the dog). Dawn French reads in a warm, chocolatey voice. You can see how accomplished Mick Inkpen is when you compare him with other low-key picture-book writers. Fergus the Farmyard Dog by Tony Maddox (Piccadilly Pounds 5.99) is also aimed at an audience of toddlers and upwards, but is so inoffensively gentle as to be bland, not that that will stop its target audience enjoying all the songs and sound effects on their personal stereos.

More serious listeners might put on Sir John Gielgud's reading of Edward Lear's Book of Nonsense (Hodder Pounds 5.99). Lear's genuine oddness is well captured in Gielgud's fruity tones which recite the bizarrely unfunny limericks as well as the cosy fantasy of "The Owl and the Pussycat". Forty-five minutes of family fun.

There are three whole hours of absorbed listening in The Best Treasury of Stories (Hodder Pounds 5.99), a modern version of those collections of fairy stories that children used to be given at Christmas long ago. Joan Aiken and Jenny Alexander offer magical tales for young ears, talking of bears in the bathroom, brothers who turn into pigs and magical palm trees. It's amazing how a few feet of magnetic tape can be a vehicle for travel into the furthest reaches of the imagination.

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