28th August 1998 at 01:00
Personally, I wish children didn't like stories like Pongwiffy, read here unabridged by Prunella Scales (Cavalcade Pounds 9.99). But they do. All the smelliness and untidiness and snobbery jokes for which Scales's voice is so uniquely suited are indulged to the hilt. Incidental characters such as Hugo the Viennese hamster and witches' familiar, or a gaggle of other improbably named bitchy witches get the full Scales treatment.

This is just as well because the story, about how Granny Malodour obtains the ingredients for her special spell (not to be had at the Magic Stores, now given over to spring cleaning), rambles. Pongwiffy, of course, sort of wins the day but only sort of, so she remains in her comfy squalor. For ages six to 10.

SOS for Rita by Hilda Offen and Fetch the Slipper by Sheila Lavelle and Paula Martyr, in Penguin's First Young Reader series, come in book and tape packs (Pounds 4.99 each). Each of the tapes runs for about 12 minutes, and has the story with sound effects on one side one, and the story with a signal for page-turning on the other. Both are read by Josie Lawrence, who infuses these unexceptional tales with volumes of archness and inflection. SOS for Rita, about a little girl who goes to the seaside and gets through a tricky moment involving waves and ice-cream, is very much one for young girls (ages three to six). Fetch the Slipper, about a naughty but good-natured dog, should attract both genders from ages three to six.

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