HAVE YOU SEEN BIRDS?
Narrated by Barbara Reid.
Narrated by Phoebe Gilman.
Volume 20 Number 5
The "Tell Me A Story" series, just released by Scholastic, takes well-known Canadian picture-books and has either the author or illustrator narrate them on cassette. The cassette is then combined with a paperback version of the book and sold as a set for an affordable $8.95. Unlike other read-along sets, the narration does not include an audible signal for turning the page, but the narrator does pause slightly. Both sides of the tape are recorded, eliminating the need to search and rewind.
Of the two under review here, Have You Seen Birds? ¹ is certainly the more familiar, having won three national book awards in 1987 for the spectacular Plasticine illustrations by Barbara Reid. It is she who reads the text of Joanne Oppenheim's beautifully evocative poem. Have You Seen Birds? must be experienced aurally to be fully appreciated, and Barbara Reid's careful diction will be easily understood by her young audience. The inclusion of bird calls in the appropriate passages (for example, the barnyard greeting of a rooster, haunting whooo of an owl, and the unmistakable squealing of a gull) certainly enhances the lyrical language of the poem.
Author-illustrator Phoebe Gilman reads her own story Grandma and the Pirates ² with the rich, well-modulated voice of a practised story-teller. It is evident that she has told this story to children at numerous readings since its publication in 1990, and she slips easily from Grandma's to Melissa's to a pirate's persona with dramatic flair.
The story itself is a rollicking adventure of how young Melissa (and her grandma) outwit three hungry, savage pirates while held captive on their ship. It is full of hyperbole and humour - the kind of story that provokes the response: "Read it again, please?" For parents, this tape provides a source of endless repetition. For teachers and librarians, it would make an excellent selection for the listening centre.
Judging by these two selections, the series is off to a promising start. A word, however, about the packaging. The shrink-wrapped cardboard wrapper is obviously designed to get the product to the purchaser and does not provide any permanent storage thereafter.(In fact, the cardboard is perforated in one spot to form a punch-out bookmark.) There is no cassette case to protect the tape from dust and destruction. This is unfortunate but necessary, I'm sure, to keep the price so low.
¹ Reviewed vol. XV/3 May 1987, p. 129.
Alison Mews is the Coordinator of the Centre for Instructional Services in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's, NF.
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