Tapes for a journey

19th July 1996 at 01:00
Black Beauty (Penguin Audio Books Pounds 6.99), perennial darling of girls aged 10-14, makes yet another comeback in a three-hour telling by Martin Jarvis. Anna Sewell's combination of love of animals and righteous indignation at their treatment is just as potent in these days of animal rights as ever it was; her Christian piety has been largely cut out by the abridgers.

The story of a handsome young foal who grows up in an idyllic country location under the apple trees with a kind master, and slowly falls through the social scale till he ends as a jobbing cabhorse "with no Sundays" is a heart-gripping saga of undeserved misery mixed withunlooked-for happiness. Excellent value which will stand replaying not just for the prime girlie age group but for all ages and both genders.

Another classic resurfaces with Alice in Wonderland (Penguin Pounds 6. 99), offering two and a half hours of dramatised narration from Susan Jameson and James Saxon set to specially composed music. The music is pleasingly whimsical but the actors are unnecessarily actorish in their efforts, infusing too much vocal technique into their reading. Carroll's words are both strong enough as literature and bizarre enough as fantasy not to need the RADA-like treatment. The BBC's Alan Bennett version of a few years back remains, for me, the definitive Alice - Bennett's lugubrious intelligence suits Carroll's oddness perfectly. This is a very feminine version that girls aged seven to 12 are likely to enjoy most.

Younger children of both genders will enjoy two Ladybird books and tape offerings. Ladybird is cheap and cheerful but sometimes that is just what you feel like on a long journey, especially if you are quite a young person who is always having to fit in with much older people. Here are a couple of tapes comfortably aimed at five and unders. 100 Nursery Rhymes, featuring such soothing voices as Jan Francis, Floella Benjamin and Derek Griffiths (Pounds 2.99), offers 35 minutes of jolly singalong fun and a brightly coloured book for toddlers to glom along with. Even more delightful is Two-Minute Teddy Bear Tales, read by Hannah Gordon and Geoffrey Palmer, which at Pounds 2.99 offers 20 minutes of gentle humour to read along with. Endlessly repeated, it could drive any adult insane but keep the average three-year old happy and contented for quite a while.

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