Play!

7th August 1998 at 01:00
Usually Dick King-Smith writes about animals. The Schoolmouse (Cavalcade Pounds 3.99), read tartly by Rosemary Leach, is in this well-worn vein. It offers an impeccably moral tale about a mouse who teaches herself to read and who makes her family save and prosper (though stopping short of the investment advice available to clients of the trust of that name).

Reading the labels on poison while moving on up the national curriculum, dealing with her bossy mother and feckless father, and finally meeting and mating, Flora is the perfect mouse - or should that be child? There is lots of fun along the way for junior-school children, but for the accompanying adult two hours-plus may be too long to live in the company of a mouse, however literate.

Dick King-Smith fans will also revel in the adventures of Smasher (Cover to Cover Pounds 6.99). Bernard Cribbins has just the right growly, lugubrious voice for the adventures of an ugly puppy. He's a misfit, and earns a very special place in the hearts of his farmer-master and his wife. For 55 minutes, the puppy's training, mischief, ostracism and eventual return to a triumphant welcome, follows the fictional cycle of sin, repentance and reunion (it's really the Prodigal Son), and children will wriggle with worry and delight. Adults can just about stick it out.

Victoria Neumark

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