I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
In The Children???s Homer Padraig Colum weaves The Iliad into The Odyssey to make a single narrative in two parts. He begins the first part with the scene from the Odyssey where Athene recommends Telemachus to embark on a voyage to search for news of his father, and then has a minstrel, Nestor, Menelaus, and Helen narrate to Odysseus??? son the major causes and events of the Trojan war. In the second part Colum closely follows the sections of The Odyssey from Odysseus??? leave-taking from Calypso to his arrival back home at Ithaca. As the subtitle of Colum???s book reveals (The Adventures of Odysseus and the Tale of Troy), Odysseus here becomes the focal point of both The Odyssey and The Iliad.
Colum keeps many of the humorous insults, terrible battles, moving conversations, cultural textures, vivid similes, fantastic elements, and epic flavors of Homer???s epics in his 4.5 hour book. Perhaps due to his young audience or limited space, he also leaves out many impressive things, like Achilles repeatedly dragging the body of Hector around the walls of Troy, Odysseus visiting Hades, and Odysseus executing his serving women after having them clean up the gory remains of his slaughter of the suitors. The English translation seems faithful and strong, though it does favor thee, thy, and thine, as well as ???archaic??? forms like hast and spake.
I believe that although any reader (from child to adult) should really listen to the unabridged Homerian epics (of which there are many excellent translations and readings available on audible), if kids would be daunted by their length or more graphic gore, this would be a good choice, for although much shorter than the originals, it is not dumbed down and retains their grim view of mortality and vibrant view of life. And Robert Whitfield (Simon Vance) gives his usual elegant and assured reading.
Ralph Cosham does a fine job of reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, using a clear and engaging voice and avoiding trying to do too much. That is, he does not strain to alter his voice too much for the different bizarre characters, sticking close to his appealing natural speaking voice, while at the same time expressing plenty of emotion and color, depending on the situation. I like his approach, because it allows me to savor Carroll's text more fully than do the readers of some other versions available through audible.com, readers who change their voices for the different characters to an almost grotesque and distracting degree.
And the text, of course, is wonderful: full of Carroll's unique blend of nonsensical logic and logical nonsense and philosophical conundrums and questioning of identity and reality and language and humorous parodies and dreamy and nightmarish fantasy and melancholy love and sweet nostalgia, all revealed through the many funny and colorful, severe or rude or mad or childish adult-figures through whom Carroll fascinatingly interacts with Alice.
There are three minor problems with this audio book, however, that prevent me from giving it five stars. First, the sound is a little muffled. Second, no sooner does Cosham read the last word of one chapter than, without enough of a blank space, or pause, his voice startles the listener by saying the chapter number and title of the next chapter. Finally, the moving and beautiful closing poem that Carroll wrote for the end of Through the Looking Glass is missing from the audio book. Nevertheless, I recommend this audio book for being perhaps the best one (in price and quality) among the unabridged versions available through audible.com.
Listening to Kidnapped was a great adventure! While the story itself is not as intoxicating as Treasure Island, it is exciting, fascinating, grueling, moving, suspenseful, and funny. And Alan Breck Stewart, the outlawed Scottish lord on the run with first person narrator young David Balfour, is an even more appealing rogue-mentor-friend than Long John Silver: proud, hot-tempered, quick to take offense, loyal, brave, humorous, strong (when it comes to fighting and fleeing), weak (when it comes to playing cards and blowing the bagpipes), a complex, fully rounded person. It is a pleasure (that finally becomes quite poignant) to accompany the pair as they struggle to escape south over the dangerous, inhospitable heather covered highlands of northern Scotland through numerous patrolling red-coats.
Stevenson depicts the political and historical setting of mid-eighteenth-century Scotland complexly, depicting the rebellious Highlanders with sympathy for their loyalty, honor, and resilience, even as he exposes their pride, grudges, and violence.
Frederick Davidson does an excellent job reading the novel, appropriately making David na??ve and youthful, Alan experienced and mature, and all the other supporting characters just right for their roles and personalities.
The only criticism I could make with this production is to say that it has Davidson somewhat startlingly announce the next chapter number and title without pausing after ending the present chapter, but that is a very minor quibble about what is a great audiobook.