Between the lines

21st November 2003 at 00:00
TES books editor Geraldine Brennan on the inside literary track The inhabitants of Hundred Acre Wood have become eternally associated with Stephen Fry, Judi Dench and Jane Horrocks, who read the Winnie-the-Pooh stories for their audiobook versions. But AA Milne himself got there first: his 1929 reading of Winnie-the-Pooh was one of the first commercial sound recordings. He sounds detached in an early-radio-commentary sort of way, but a note of warm bemusement can be detected as he follows Piglet and "the best bear in all the world" on the snowy trail of the increasingly numerous Woozles.

The reading is one of three rare recordings by deceased classic authors from the British Library sound archive, on the library's Children's Writers CD in its Spoken Word series (pound;9.95).

JRR Tolkien is spine-tinglingly sonorous in his 1952 reading from The Hobbit, in which Gollum ("as dark as darkness except for two big, round, pale eyes") sets his fiendish riddles in possibly the least cosy bedtime story ever written. Not until 1975, and Roald Dahl's characterful treatment of a hungry Charlie Bucket sniffing the fragrant air outside the Wonka establishment, does a hint of child-friendliness creep in.

Once past Raymond Briggs and his enjoyably cantankerous giant (who sounds a bit like Albert Steptoe) from "Jim and the Beanstalk", entertainment continues all the way, with recently recorded readings by Anne Fine, Philip Pullman, Jacqueline Wilson and others.

Prior's Court school for children with autism, where founder Dame Stephanie Shirley collects fine art to assist in the pupils' therapy, was celebrated last year in a fundraising book (Friday magazine, October 25, 2002). The Art of Prior's Court has won the Limited EditionFine Binding category of the British Book Design and Production Awards. Dame Stephanie, who has filled the 54-pupil school in Berkshire with a pound;2 million collection of modern British painting, sculpture, crafts and textiles (see picture), collaborated with a team including publisher Pat Jordan Evans of the Bohun Gallery, author Ann Elliott, photojournalist Nick Danziger, photographer Stephen White, book designer Mark Thomson and textile artist Ann Sutton, who produced a special fabric for the book cover. If you can spare pound;100 (the school gets pound;25), some of the 1,000 copies remain. Email: or see

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