Audio books make for pleasant car rides, especially with my girl. Though I’d never listen to hours of Raffi on a road trip (or any other setting, truth be told), I’ll gladly revisit favorite books from my childhood read by talented performers.
A good audio book does require a good narrator. We’ve discovered some gems, like Stephen Fry’s renditions of A Bear Called Paddington and More About Paddington, and Mary Beth Hurt’s reading of The Fledgling. We’ve also borne some disappointments, like Eric Idle narrating Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
I like Idle well enough, but Meg wasn’t impressed. “When are they going to start talking?!” she wanted to know, and we finally understood her to mean, “When is the narrator going to adopt the voices of the characters?” I’m glad she’s not so demanding of her parents — she’s since contentedly listened to her dad read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory without ever expressing disappointment that the characters weren’t talking — but she wants her audio books performed.
I’ve found that I share her sensibilities. I feel more engaged in the story when the narrator voices the characters, subtle though it may be. This has been harder to find than I expected, so I was delighted to discover a story I remember diving into as a child with a delightful narrator who successfully (for the most part) manages several characters in two accents. Though Kipling was English, I think the story, set in India, benefits from a narrator presenting an accurate Indian voice.
Meg was enchanted. We listened to the story on our way across town, and when it ended on the way back, she asked to start it over. She then had her first experience of something all audio book listeners will recognize: sitting in the car outside our house to hear the story through (once again) to the end.
Go get your free download of Rikki Tikki Tavi read by Sumeet Bharati from Audible.com. But before you do, tell me: What are your favorite audio books?
the spiral of children’s literature