I love listening to or reading books--especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, classics, & historical.
This is an utterly charming audiobook! Arthur Ransome's story about the four Walker siblings ("Able Seaman" Titty being my favorite!) and the two "Amazon Pirate" girls and their idyllic adventures during a perfect August in 1929 sailing around a big lake in the Lake District and camping on Wild Cat Island in it is vividly, humorously, winningly told. Ransome is so good at capturing how kids play, with one half of their minds and hearts in fantasyland (pirates, explorers, the Pacific ocean, sharks, buried treasure, sea battles, walking the plank, deserted islands, etc.) and one half in the real world (making safe fires, cleaning fish and pots and pans, teaching a younger sibling how to swim, managing sailboats efficiently, etc.). He's so good at depicting how their thoughts and imaginations and hearts work! And his girls, especially Titty and Nancy, are at least as imaginative, bold, wild, and strong as the boys.
I cringed at first when I heard the kids referring to the "natives" (locals) from the standpoint, I thought, of "civilized white explorers," but then it turned out to be their way of signifying killjoy adults who are too serious to enter into the kids' fantasy world and became a complex and interesting use of language.
The reader, Alison Larkin, is perfectly suited to the book. She speaks clearly, thoroughly understands and feels what she's reading, slightly varies her voice for the different characters (from Ship's Boy Roger to Captain Flint), and speaks with infectious good humor and spirit, so that listening to Ransome's delightful text becomes a big smiling and chuckling pleasure.
The book is also surprisingly moving (without being at all sentimental), as when, near the end, Mrs. Dixon, the local farm woman who has been supplying the kids with fresh milk every morning, says she'll miss them after they leave the lake the next day, and Titty says, "But we'll be back next year and every year after that for ever and ever," and Mrs. Dixon replies, "Aye
This was a wonderful listen! The chapters (linked short stories) recount how Robin Hood comes to be an outlaw in Sherwood Forest, meets the key members of his band, and merrily adventures with them in and around Sherwood Forest in twelfth-century England. Howard Pyle's book has many impressive and pleasing points, among them:
exciting story-telling, rollicking lust for life, savory conversations, compelling songs, apt aphorisms, beautiful descriptions of nature, irreverent chastising of corrupt authority figures, interesting figures of speech (comparing, for example, the swift passing of Robin's anger to a breath on a window pane or the slow brain of a cobbler to a ball of unbaked bread dough), great humor (ranging from comical slapstick to witty banter and funny irony), and thoughtful movement from the light-hearted merriment of youth to the joy and grief of nostalgic maturity.
Christopher Cazenove reads with a clear voice and a charming manner and an effective range of accents and moods for the various characters, among them the good-hearted and stout Robin, the brawny and faithful Little John, the refined Will Scarlet, the querulous Sheriff of Nottingham, and the bestial bandit Guy of Gisbourne. Cazenove even remains in each character's voice as he sings the occasional catchy or lovely folk ballads. He infuses his reading with such meaning, humor, and life that listening to this audiobook was a pure pleasure that made me smile and laugh and finally moved me to tears.
This is an excellent dramatization of A. A. Milne's delightful classic book about Pooh, the bear of little brain, and his quirky friends. The different voice actors are perfect, with standouts being Judi Dench as one of the two narrators, Jane Horrocks as the husky, high-voiced Piglet, and Geoffrey Palmer as the appealingly gloomy Eeyore. Stephen Fry does a sturdy Pooh, though at times I had the uncanny impression of Fry himself standing before me rather than Pooh bear. Two narrators, one male, one female, narrate the chapters, switching back and forth repeatedly and rapidly, and after about the first chapter, I found myself enjoying the switches, as though I were being read to by two ideally witty and warm parents or grand-parents at the same time. The piano music that begins or closes chapters and accompanies Pooh's "hums" is pleasant and appropriate. The sound effects help the listener to imagine the scenes without distracting him/her from the savory text. And the dramatization doesn't abridge much; from what I could tell (by comparing the first chapter in the book with the first one in the audiobook), the dramatizers include pretty much all of Milne's words and chapters except for occasional dialogue tags that are conveyed well enough by the different voice actors.
It was very entertaining to listen to this book; I often found myself smiling and chuckling at the foolish and charming exploits of Pooh and company and wishing the book would not end.
By the way, I tried the samples of Peter Dennis reading the unabridged Pooh books and was completely turned off by the bizarre grunting-farting noise that punctuates all of Piglet's utterances. Jane Horrocks is much much MUCH more appealingly Piglet-y.