Mystery and witches

28th March 1997 at 00:00
If you need a little mystic peace in your life, try Jataka Tales (Pounds 5.95 including p p from Dharm-achakra Tapes, 3 Coral Park, Cambridge CB1 3EA). In an appropriately soothing voice, Julia Blalock relates the folk stories of the Buddha's previous lives as monkey, dog, banyan tree, buffalo and so on. All of the stories have a moral, generally stressing the importance of altruism and compassion. Just the stuff to feed the non-violent troops.

Interestingly, these versions of the stories were made by a heroine of the French resistance, Noor Inayat Khan, who worked as a radio operator. She died in Dachau and was posthumously awarded a George medal, Croix de Guerre and MBE. Suitable for ages five to 12, 100 minutes Strangely, Julia Mackenzie, who reads Robin Jarvis's fantasy mystery The Whitby Witches (Macdonald Young Books, Pounds 7.99) is also possessed of extraordinarily soothing tones. Jarvis writes total hokum for nine to 13-year-olds; the Whitby series is one of his most popular. Is Whitby just a sleepy seaside town? Are Alice Boston and her friends just eccentric old ladies? Who are the mysterious fisher folk that only Ben can see? Will Ben and his friend Jennet be safe from the black hound which stalks the streets of Whitby? Is it really a hound? Any adult will be able to answer such questions in a trice; pre-pubescent children who have not yet familiarised themselves with a trice will be absorbed.

It's Enid Blyton time again. After the Famous Five dramatised tapes here are the Secret Seven. Bonnie Langford (probably contemporaneous with the Secret Seven) plays her part as narrator and a host of shrill-voiced little thespians act their ankle socks off. In vain. The Seven were always just two children too far, pushing the wildly improbable adventures of the Five further into the realms of the would-be-surreal-if-not-so-boring. This new selection (Secret Seven Fireworks, Shock for the Secret Seven, Puzzle for the Secret Seven, all Hodder, 40 minutes each, Pounds 3.99) seems especially witless. Even their names: Peter, Janet, Pam, Barbara, Jack, Colin and Scamper the spaniel, remind me of how dreary the 1950s could be and why everyone embraced mind-altering drugs with such fervour in the 1960s.

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