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.
Every second and every word of Anne Flosik’s reading of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows were a pure pleasure to listen to. If I wasn’t laughing at the incorrigible Toad’s absurd, selfish, reckless, and yet somehow heroic antics, I was shutting my eyes to imagine and savor the warm friendship between Rat and Mole and the rich descriptions of the different seasons of the natural world around the River. The novel achieves great poignancy when Mole misses his home and when Rat hears the call of the south, and sublime beauty when the friends see and forget the Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
I like the ambiguous nature of the animals, who obey the “etiquette” of the changing seasons according to their animal natures, use paws, live in holes, and are aware of their differences from human beings, and yet who also wear clothes, eat human foods, and equip their holes with comfortable human furnishings. And just what is their size? If they are the naturally sized smallish animals (like any rodents or toads) they sometimes seem to be (like the seafaring rat from Constantinople), how could a field mouse go out shopping for Christmas feast supplies and come back laden with a pound of this and a pound of that and how could Toad crash stolen motorcars, disguise himself as a washerwoman, and ride a stolen horse? This blurring of naturalism and fantasy is one of the delightful pleasures of The Wind in the Willows.
Is The Wind in the Willows a children’s book? Hmmm. I suspect that (as with the Alice books) adults may enjoy it more than children, though the Toad chapters should make every reader laugh. The book may be read critically for its conservative views on class and gender, but I treasure its humor, beauty, wonder, warmth, nature, and art. And Anne Flosik enhances all those virtues perfectly with her husky and measured voice and appealing wit and emotion.
A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
Finished reading this with my kids, but I probably enjoyed it the most. It was a fun introduction to Lawrence of Arabia written by Alstair MacLean in 1962. It focuses on the role that T.E. Lawrence played in the Arab Revolt during WWI. There is just enough wind-up with his early life, character, etc., and the history/geography of Arabia to insure the thrust of MacLean's small biography doesn't lose nonserious readers in a desert of Arab ignorance. But the book's real brilliance is in MacLean's depiction of the Capture of Aqaba, Battle of Tafileh and the Fall of Damascus. At the end, MacLean also ties the book off with a summary of the post-War years and some of the political results of T.E. Lawrence's work with Winston Churchill and the Colonial Office.
Again, as a biography this is probably not where I would start for T.E. Lawrence. This is more literary hagiography than biography. Alistar MacLean is better known for his war novels like 'The Guns of Navarone' and 'Where Eagles Dare'. MacLean's book came out the same year as Lawrence of Arabia the academy award winning movie (which suggests this was one of those books intended to surf the wave of interest generated by a popular film). But still, if you are going to read one biography to your kids designed around a legend, saint, or mythmaker ... you could certainly feed the kids worse.