Rating scale: 5=Loved it, 4=Liked it, 3=Ok, 2=Disappointed, 1=Hated it. I look for well developed characters, compelling stories.
I watched Johnny Depp’s “Finding Neverland” on TV the other night and had a craving to revisit this favorite childhood classic. Except that I am one of those poor souls who never read the original story, but was raised first on the Mary Martin TV musical production, then the Disney animation. As other reviewers discovered, there is more in the story for adults than I suspected from the child-focused versions. Filled with social commentary, current day critics of the home-and-child role imposed on Wendy need to remember that this was written at the tail end of the patriarchal family-first Victorian era.
In spite of the unexpected grown up tone of the story, there is no denying the timeless charm and imagination that has endeared Peter Pan to over a century of readers. Suspending my grown up self and experiencing it through my child-self retained the magic. The final chapter, after the return home, touched me the most. It well deserves to be experienced in its original format.
Unlike the majority of listeners I had conflicting feelings about Jim Dale’s reading. As the objective all-knowing narrator he was excellent. But when it came to the character voices, especially the children, I guess I wanted to hear a little more child-like wonder. By focusing on the false bluster of the children trying to be brave and self-sufficient, some of the charm was missing. His voice was just so obviously old-mannish, in my mind a contradiction of the youth oriented tone of the story. But he is still a talented enough reader to rate 4 stars. Listening to the sample may help others to discern if his style works for you.
Black Beauty has been my favorite book since childhood. I know it through and through, and there are some passages that I know by heart. I have never liked the various TV and movie adaptations of the story, and was particularly annoyed by Beauty's voice in the 1999 movie version, in which he sounds like a gerbil. When I found this recording by Nathaniel Parker, an actor I have long respected, I knew I had found the right one. I was not disappointed. Parker gives this moving, thought-provoking classic all the right touches. He brings the story to life with the different accents for the human characters and the lively voices for the equine characters, who are of course the most important. He made me smile at the humorous moments and brought tears to my eyes at the sad moments. Most importantly to me, in portraying Black Beauty, he sounds like a noble, spirited, thoughtful horse. Not a gerbil, not a man, but a horse. I don't know how he managed that, but he did it. I can't recommend this recording highly enough to those who already love this book or to those who are coming to it for the first time. You are in for a treat.