Children's audiobooks reviewed

Fun with the sorcerers' apprentices
Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Eoin Colfer's genius is to write prose that sounds like your best friend talking urgently about happenings more exciting than you've ever dreamed. It works exceptionally well on audio, especially when read by the appropriately Irish Tom Farrelly. Half Moon Investigations (Puffin, 3hrs 45 mins, 3 CDs, £12.99) abandons the semi-fantasy world of Artemis Fowl for a reality familiar to children: classroom tensions, playground wars and battles against bullies in alleys. His short, lippy Chandleresque detective, Fletcher Moon, tells us that in his 12 years he has seen "lunch boxes stripped of everything but fruit. I've seen counterfeit homework networks" and "truckloads of candy taken from babies". Commissioned by April Devereux, only 10 but "already head of an entire tribe of Barbites", to investigate an outbreak of thefts, he soon finds darker forces are at work.

Doctor Who: The Resurrection Casket (BBC, 2 hrs 30 mins, 2 CDs, £9.99) and other titles will delight the many children who can't get enough of the Doctor. Read by David Tennant, they romp along splendidly, generously laced with special effects. Whovians will also enjoy the interview with the episode's writer attached to each story.

Cornelia Funke's literature-laced Inkheart books have become bestsellers both in Europe and America. Inkspell (Listening Library, 11 CDs, c.19 hrs, c.£60, or download from is the second in the series. This time the focus is in the mysterious Dustfinger's apprentice Farid, but later the heroine of the first book, Meggie, also re-enters the strange medieval "inkscape" of the story. As you listen to Brendan Fraser's compelling narration, you enter its world yourself, and the book's mythic quality is revealed to the full.

Still standing up well after 50 years or more, Enid Blyton's Secret Seven series (BBC, unabridged, 1 hr 45 mins, 2 CDs, £9.99) has been subtly adapted for modern times by removing such period elements as shillings and Button A in the phone-box. There are still nostalgic elements (kindly but firm policeman, grown-ups with unquestioned authority), but if you yearn to instil a stocky moral sense into children as well of offering lots of ideas for good clean fun (and healthy naughtiness), try them on these fast-moving tales.

Little girls who love pink will lap up Gwyneth Rees's Fairy Dust (BBC, 2 CDs, £9.99), a cleverly spun yarn about a well-thought-out fairy world of wee men and dainty feys born whenever a human child leaves the world untimely. They die when no one remembers the child they once were. Miserable over her parents' separation, Rosie comes to Ireland with her mother. She saves a fairy caught by a malign cat. But her friend begins to pine away. It's up to Lucy to discover those who remember the child she was.