When the B-side proves to be a bonus

Jane Markwell

The Star That Fell (Ladybird Pounds 4.99 ) is aimed at the young reader (3-5) and follows the journey of a star that falls to earth and is retrieved and borrowed by various friends, until a little girl finally notices that its shine is diminishing. The moral of the story is that everything flourishes where it belongs, in its own natural habitat. I had a strong suspicion that the music on it was being eeked out to fill the tape. Even so, it was enhanced immeasurably by the accompanying picture book, with its exquisite illustrations.

The B-side of this tape is a real bonus. The Boy Who Went to the Moon is an exciting adventure, read charmingly by the late, great Jon Pertwee. It turned out to be an even greater hit with my children than the title track.

No book or aid of any kind is required to appreciate the joys of Tony Robinson's Musical Tales (Hodder Pounds 7.99). I defy anyone from three to 93 not to be simply spellbound by the way pieces of classical music are brought to life by Robinson's comical and endearing narrative.

It is an inspirational introduction to classical music, children will be captivated by the compelling mixture of words and music that work together to produce such a theatrical result.

Opening lines like "A long time ago, long before Radio One or Noel Edmonds's House Party ..." for The Firebird, should even manage to grab the attention of hardened Oasis fans.

And descriptions like "Giants with huge, misshapen heads, grinning dwarves that scuttled like rats across the flagstones, men with the heads of goats and wild boars and creatures formed from slime that slithered along the wall" is enough to inspire the most Disney-brainwashed children.

Throughout the eight classics, the script, instead of being overpowering, bows to the power of the story and the music, the latter taking over so seamlessly, that you are hardly aware that the narrative has stopped. A treat not to be missed and treasured by the whole family.

More Tales from Blackberry Farm (Hodder Pounds 5.99) is a collection of Jane Pilgrim's classic children's stories read by Johnny Morris. Such old favourites, combined with Morris's magical tones, should have proved to be an instant recipe for success.

However, these are pitched at such a basic level they failed to fire the young imaginations in my household for any prolonged period of time.

The provision of a book would have gone a long way to help this, otherwise the only way to keep my three and six-year-olds' attention on the tape was to hold them captive in a car on the scenic route to Safeway.

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