A titanic partnership of writer and reader

Kate Winslet docks with Enid Blyton in the highlight of a starry season for children's audio.
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The celebrity event of the children's audio year is Kate Winslet's reading of Enid Blyton's The Enchanted Wood (Chorion, 5 hrs, £14.99). No doubt with little Mia in mind, Kate herself suggested to the Blyton Estate that she should read it, unabridged, because it was her favourite as a child. It was one of mine too. The Faraway Tree and its residents Silky the Fairy, toffee-glutton Moonface and Saucepan-Man, and the ever-spinning lands above its topmost branches, were potent magic. It's evident that the land in which Blyton was sneered at for being too easy to read and perilously bourgeois has now moved on: parents are seizing eagerly on her works just because they are easy to read and full of those hazily remembered bourgeois values that seem suddenly to offer useful solutions to harassed parents. In The Enchanted Wood, Mummy and Daddy are so poor that they both have to work extremely hard; it is the children who do the housework and tend the vegetable garden. Trips to the wood have to

The celebrity event of the children's audio year is Kate Winslet's reading of Enid Blyton's The Enchanted Wood (Chorion, 5 hrs, £14.99). No doubt with little Mia in mind, Kate herself suggested to the Blyton Estate that she should read it, unabridged, because it was her favourite as a child. It was one of mine too. The Faraway Tree and its residents Silky the Fairy, toffee-glutton Moonface and Saucepan-Man, and the ever-spinning lands above its topmost branches, were potent magic. It's evident that the land in which Blyton was sneered at for being too easy to read and perilously bourgeois has now moved on: parents are seizing eagerly on her works just because they are easy to read and full of those hazily remembered bourgeois values that seem suddenly to offer useful solutions to harassed parents. In The Enchanted Wood, Mummy and Daddy are so poor that they both have to work extremely hard; it is the children who do the housework and tend the vegetable garden. Trips to the wood have to be earned; the reward for doughty labours.

More excellent listening is to be found in The Subtle Knife (Cavalcade, 9 hrs, £24.99), the second volume of Philip Pullman's magnificent trilogy. Lyra Silvertongue gains a much-needed companion in Will, a resourceful boy who shepherds his distracted mother to safety and saves his father's secret letters in an opening sequence which will have you sitting on the edge of your chair. The technique is again that interesting cross between reading and dramatisation introduced in Northern Lights, the first volume: Pullman is himself the narrator, his husky, power-packed voice a perfect foil to the main characters.

The third unabridged recording of the Harry Potter books is also with us. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Cover to Cover, c 8hrs, £24.99) is once again read by Stephen Fry, who manages to get through the usual preliminary recap of Muggle ways and Wizard pranks with impressive equanimity before diving enthusiastically into the real fun: the latest hidden horrors at Hogwarts School.

Inevitably, a critical backlash is beginning against Pottermania, but there is no reason to grudge Rowling her success, and Stephen Fry is presumably already gargling in anticipation of the really long haul - the gigantic Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

I was a bit shaken when the editor of a famous publishing house opined that the Potter books must be so successful because there wasn't much about for children. It has, in fact, far more to do with the unattractiveness of so much offered for adults. Children are spoilt for choice: for equally gripping yarns that you will enjoy as much as they do, contact Chivers (01225 335336) for the Cavalcade catalogue of unabridged children's audiobooks. They specialise in recordings of such excellent authors as Joan Aiken, Malorie Blackman, Gillian Cross, Anne Fine, Jenny Nimmo, Jeremy Strong and, most notably, Philip Pullman.

Kevin Crossley-Holland is a poet as well as a famous teller of folk tales, and his Arthur: The Seeing Stone (Orion, c 4hrs, £8.99) works almost better heard than on the page. It's a story of being between times, set in an English manor in 1199 - the turn of a century - but also shifting back to Arthurian legends as the two lives of very different Arthurs interweave. Crossley-Holland can cast a spell with a phrase, and reader Samuel West does his writing full justice; elegant, too, is the framing of each episode in fluting medieval-style music.

The gift of the gab is legendarily an attribute of the Irish. It's certainly in evidence in Benedict Flynn's Tales of Irish Myths (Naxos, 2hrs 36mins. £8.99), read by two of the finest brogues this side of the Irish Sea. The three substantial stories - "The Tale of Cu Chulainn", "The Children of Lir" and "The Tale of Finn Mac Cool" - are all extraordinarily haunting.

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