Circle of friends

10th January 1997 at 00:00
Richard Briers has one of those voices which sounds like melted butter on asparagus. The perfect teller for Nick Butterworth's cosy tales of life in the idyllic park of Percy, the chuckling park-keeper, he features on a compilation tape Percy's Friends (HarperCollins Pounds 3.99) and on three book-tape combinations, The Treasure Hunt, The Hedgehog's Balloon and The Badger's Bath (all Pounds 5.99 each).

As Nick Butterworth's illustration skills are more accomplished than his narrative ones, the book and tape sets are a better bet than the compilation tape, especially when it comes to the bit where the badger is hiding up a tree and then falls "by accident" into the bath which Percy had prepared for him as he was too smelly to come to tea. "I didn't know badgers could climb trees, " remarks Percy. You're not the only one, mate.

Actually, it is a mark of the general believability of Nick Butterworth's world that the badger up a tree should cause one to blink, where the badger coming to tea does not.

There are none of these hang-ups when it comes to three new stories in the Ladybird book and tape range (each Pounds 4.99). Jan Francis and Jon Pertwee read Don't Worry William, about a boy and a teddy alone in the house at night; Telephone Ted, about a teddy who, pre-Internet presumably, joins in with the outside world through the phone; and Whispering Moon, in which a small girl wishes to be taller and then wishes she hadn't. The pair's accomplished voices guide small listeners through plots and language which are, frankly, the most awful tosh. Songs accompany each story and its companion on the B side of the tape. These are pretty dire as well, but I have to confess that while you or I might rather skirl around the sky with the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, most pre-school children, especially if tired, would probably prefer to be holding William the teddy bear's paw and leafing slowly through the illustrated text.

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