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Performed by Sara Ellis and Bill Richardson.
First Avenue Press, 1986. 52 minutes, Audiocassette, $10.95.
Distributed by First Avenue Press
2566 West First Ave., Vancouver BC., V6K 1G7 #FRCD-1002.


Performed by Sara Ellis and Bill Richardson.
First Avenue Press, 1986. 45 minutes, Audiocassette, $10.95.
Distributed by First Avenue Press
2566 West First Ave., Vancouver BC., V6K 1G7 #FRCD-1001.

Grades 1-5 / Ages 6-10

Reviewed by Christine Buchanan.

Volume 15 Number 2
1987 March

While nothing has quite the hold of a well-told story by a live storyteller, the recorded story can still be an enjoyable and worthwhile substitute in settings such as car journeys, individual listening at home or with earphones at school, reading along with a tape, and some group situations. Sara Ellis (author of the novel for older children, The Baby Project ¹) and Bill Richardson have collaborated on two tapes of traditional stories that will help fill these needs.

Pobbles and Porridge Pots, designed approximately for grades 1 to 5, contains two narrative nonsense poems by Edward Lear, six traditional folk tales, mostly from the British Isles, one story written by Sara Ellis in the folk manner, and the old rhyme, "The House That Jack Built." The two narrators read with expression and clarity, occasionally singing choruses where appropriate, and using different voices to provide drama and enhance dialogue. These spirited interpretations capture the essence of the stories and will likely promote enthusiastic listening, and in some cases, participation. Occasional simple tunes played on recorder or penny whistle also help to establish a mood and to provide variety. Playing time is forty-five munutes.

For children aged eight and up, with longer attention spans and more literary experience, Mud and Gold, with a running time of about fifty-two minutes, offers a quartet of more challenging stories. Included are the folk tale "Stan Bolovan," Hans Christian Andersen's "The Swineherd" and "The Steadfast Tin Soldier," and Oscar Wilde's "The Happy Prince." These last two stories are frequently requested in libraries by adults and children and are widely available in books and on film; a taped version may well prove an interesting variation for these borrowers. Although without the music and special voices of Pobbles and Porridge Pots, these stories are equally well told with authority and expression.

It is regrettable that more care was not taken in labelling the stories used. On the Mud and Gold tape, Hans Christian Andersen's name is misspelled and "Stan Bolovan" is simply listed as a "folk tale." My own research indicates that this is a Romanian story. On Pobbles and Porridge Pots, sources for stories are not given in all cases and no specific collections or texts are cited. It is very important to indicate both the country of origin and which particular version is being used on a tape such as this; parents, teachers, and children often request stories from a particular country to support a theme or project or just out of interest, and if a specific collection is cited, listeners can easily find their way to the printed text. Again on this tape, the poem "The Jumblies," by Edward Lear, is called a "folk tale" and Lear receives no credit at all. These errors and omissions lessen the value of the tapes and create an amateur impression. However, if parents, teachers, and librarians can correct and fill in these details for the children with whom they work, these tapes can still provide some good listening for the home, school, and public library.

Christine Buchanan, Toronto, ON.

¹ Reviewed vol. XV/I January 1987, p. 15.

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