I am so excited (writes Sam).
My MA in Children’s Literature has restarted after the Christmas break, and we’re looking at how children respond to books. I expect I will share my reading and findings on here and / or on my ChildtasticBooks Masters blog, as well as trying out things on Holly (poor, unsuspecting child). But I wanted to share something that has got me smiling.
One of the books we have as essential reading is the classic The Wind in the Williams by Kenneth Grahame, published in 1908.
Mole and Ratty ‘messing about in boats’. Image courtesy of guardian.co.uk
I was first introduced to this marvellous book when I was a child. My mother gave me a copy of the audiobook, read by the brilliant Kenneth Williams, and it soon became a most prized possession.
Image courtesy of unitedagents.co.uk
I listened to this over and over. It was particularly comforting when I was off school ill, or just needed something to listen to, to relax. My version was a double set of audio cassettes – before the days of CDs! Holly I don’t think has ever seen a tape.
I kept it safe but unfortunately, after much travelling over the years, I couldn’t lay my hands on it when I looked for it recently. I logged on to amazon, convinced I would find it there, but discovered to my horror that it wasn’t available. More recent versions have been done, including one that Holly has read by Alan Bennett, but that wouldn’t do. It had to be Williams’ recording.
In despair, I turned to ebay and managed to track down a copy. It was on cassette again; this version doesn’t exist – as far as I know – on CD. Thank goodness I still have my grandfather’s old stereo which has a cassette player on it! I won the bidding and was hopping with excitement when the postman dropped my valuable package through the door.
So, why do I love this so much? For me, no one has come close to capturing the characters in the story as evocatively as Kenneth Williams. More known for his bawdy, camp humour, Williams was a wonderful and varied actor, with brilliant timing in his delivery. He doesn’t just read the story – he brings it to life in a way that is rarely heard even by the most talented of readers. He was a real storyteller. I might even dare to say that I like the audiobook of this story better than the words on the page. As I read the words I hear his voice in my head and everything comes to life.
I want to play it to Holly to see if she will fall in love with this like I did. Though I worry somewhat. What if she finds it boring or it just doesn’t captivate her like it did me? Will it spoil my enjoyment? She isn’t the biggest fan of the book as it stands, finding the Weasles too scary in particular. She does like Kenneth Williams though, having seen him in one of the Carry On films, so perhaps I can win her over. It’s best done on a long car journey when she’s not distracted in the house but for that I will need to transfer the book onto CD or MP3 format.
I will let you know how we get on. Wish me luck!
Have you heard Kenneth Williams’ version of The Wind in the Willows? What is your favourite audiobook?
PS – if you’d like to enjoy hearing Williams’ talent, have a look at this video on You Tube of him singing Ma Crepe Suzette, and him explaining on a chat show his thoughts on accents – very funny and I think goes some way to showing why I like him reading The Wind in the Willows. A slight warning – there’s a little strong word (nothing offensive) towards the end of that second clip.