Children's Books: Triffic laughs with bad girls

Reading aloud for children is an art, says Christina Hardyment

IT'S VERY easy to read children's books, especially funny ones, in an arch, over- emphatic and intensely annoying fashion which has me reaching for the off button and the kids simulating carsickness in an instant. There are none of these problems with Jeremy Strong's The Hundred-Mile-an-Hour Dog (Puffin, 1hr 15mins, pounds 7.99). Martin Clune's low-key, interested but downbeat, rendering turns an amusing tale into a classic.

Streaker, "a mixture of Ferrari and whirlwind with a woof attached," appears to be untameable - until not only pounds 30 holiday pocket-money but avoiding a ghastly ducking in a slime-filled horsetrough depend upon it. Trevor and Tina's efforts to thwart spotty bully Charlie Smugg and his equally ghastly policemen father pile up disaster on disaster until the very last moment. A chuckle a mile.

The acknowledged master of the gently non-committal has to be Alan Bennett, who has now read virtually all the great early 20th-century children's classics. Every family, perhaps everybody, will be the happier for tucking the BBC's new Alan Bennett Children's Library (BBC 8hrs 10mins, pounds 19.99) into the glove compartment of their car. It contains a cornucopia of classics - Winnie the Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner, The Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.

Even the best of voices can get wearisome if unalleviated. An equally enjoyable new version of an old classic is the splendidly varied reading of The Adventures of Peter Rabbit and Other Favourite Tales (Penguin, 2hrs, pounds 7.99, also available on CD, pounds 9.99). Among the readers are Michael Hordern and Penelope Routledge, and each tale is agreeably framed in Carl Davis's specially composed music. Also fresh on the ear is Fiona Shaw's reading of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass (Naxos, 2hrs 15mins, pounds 8.99, also available on CD). Shaw is exactly the adult child that Alice ought to be, without a trace of the winsome, conveying both her sense of wonder and her intrepid common sense.

Jacqueline Wilson's Smarties award-winning Bad Girls (Cavalcade, unabridged, 4hrs 20mins, pounds 9.99), read by Josie Lawrence, also provides a good meaty listen for a long journey. Mandy is being bullied, not least because of her mother is incapable of allowing her only child to grow up and sends her to school with plaits and pink ribbons in an age of baseball caps and streaks. Tanya, an older girl being fostered by Mandy's neighbour, can put paid to the bullies - but she raises a whole new crop of dilemmas for both Mandy and her mother.

Single children's tapes are often extremely meanly endowed, but don't let the small size of Dick King-Smith's Triffic (Cover to Cover, 55 mins, pounds 3.99) put you off. There is nearly an hour of good listening in this "Rare Pig's Tale". An engaging fable of friendship a little in the mode of King-Smith's hugely popular Babe, it is also interestingly informative about rare breeds.

The word "hilarious" is frequently a sure sign of the unfunny, but it is well-earned as the subtitle to a new collection of poems by Michael Rosen, You Wait Till I'm Older Than You (Puffin, 1hr 45mins, pounds 7.99). He reads them himself with just the right degree of emphasis, a hard thing to do when the poems in question are impossible to listen to without laughing aloud. Even their memory brings on a smile - an excellent tonic.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Public vote: Art Everywhere poster in a bus shelter featuring John Hoyland
art
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

    Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

    Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on