Picking voices for my favourite children’s stories

12 Jun

Over the last year I’ve been working on an exciting new project; commissioning a series called Famous Fiction.  Their common theme?  Abridged children’s classic tales read by well-known actors and stars.

This specially themed series was a joy to work on; taking me back to my childhood and the worlds that were opened as I heard these stories for the first time. Immediately we knew we had a special challenge ahead – introducing these well-loved stories to a new generation of children who might never have heard them before.  We had to capture not only the story, but also the tone and humour of the original book, some aspects of which I had forgotten. And what a treat it was to rediscover them!

Bill Nighy reads The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Famous Fiction) For instance, imagine my surprise when, after landing in Oz, Dorothy was given silver shoes in the book, and not the ruby ones invented by the film! I hadn’t remembered these subtle but significant differences between the book of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and the film, with the book offering so much more. Add to that mix Bill Nighy, the fantastic actor from hits such as Love Actually,  Pirates of the Caribbean and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and you have a the perfect combination for L. Frank Baum’s tale of Oz.

Similarly, the portrayal of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by the film actress Gemma Arterton (Clash of the Titans, ByzantiumPrince of Persia) is unforgettable, as she takes us down the rabbit hole with Alice and leads us to a tea party.  The mad-capped world she finds there is funny and packed with action and characters who stay with you for ever.  It’s no wonder this has remained a firm favourite through the years.

I was always riveted to the trials and tribulations of Black Beauty, and as a child, took to heart the message of the book that animals should always be treated with kindness.  While the story takes us through the life story of this kindly horse, the tone is always accessible and, in this particular recording, made all the more poignant by Being Human and His & Hers  actor Russell Tovey.

Jenna-Louise Coleman reads The Secret GardenFrances Hodgson Burnett’s book was always a particular favourite of mine, and I remember spending a lot of time outside in the garden after hearing it, in the hope that I too would find a key to a secret garden of my own.  Alas I never did, but on hearing the newest Doctor Who assistant, Jenna-Louise Coleman’s abridged reading of it, I wanted to get right back out there to see if I could now.  A trusty metal detector might come in use!

These first four Famous Fiction titles in the series are available now, and I have been looking forward to listening to these favourites again in long car journeys with the kids and at bedtime.  I hope you do too!

Alex Arlango, Commissioning Editor

Browse our Famous Fiction audiobooks

Bill Nighy reads The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Famous Fiction) Russell Tovey reads Black Beauty Jenna-Louise Coleman reads The Secret GardenGemma Arterton reads Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

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