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The story of Famous Fiction

11 Jul

The second instalment of our Famous Fiction is about to hit the shelves and we have some real goodies in store for you!

Famous Fiction

I have to confess that working on this series has been anything but a chore.  Finding fantastic readers to tackle these brilliant abridged children’s classics is one of the most fun aspects of creating an audiobook: matching the perfect voice to a particular story.

The process always starts with the story or book and working out who is telling the story.  Is the person whose story it is female or male?  Of course there isn’t always a first person narrator and in those cases other things need to be taken into consideration.  What is the story about?  What kind of listener is going to be interested in it?  Usually those questions will tease out an idea of whether the story is best suited to a male or female voice.

The next big question is what type of voice should tell the story.  Some stories need the voice of a young person, while others might need something with a particularly creepy tone of voice, or maybe it needs a narrator with a special accent.  Once all these elements have been identified, then comes the exciting part of creating a wish-list of people to approach and the nerve-wracking part of waiting to hear if they can record the book.  Luckily, with this Famous Fiction range, we didn’t have to wait long to hear from those we approached.

The first voice-to-story ‘marriage’ in this Famous Fiction series was that of Dominic Cooper reading Oliver Twist.  I’d seen Dominic on stage when he was in The History Boys, as well as his more recent performances in The Duchess and Tamara Drewe.  He is fantastic at getting under the skin of the characters he portrays and when I found out he was a Londoner by birth I knew he would be perfect for this urban classic.  I knew he would have some fun in portraying not only Oliver, but also Fagin and his gang.

I was thrilled when Gemma Arterton agreed to read both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass.  Not only is she a hugely talented actress with great range, but she has captured the precociousness of Alice perfectly as she finds herself surrounded by the most dazzling array of characters.

Well-known for her recent role in Downton Abbey, Elizabeth McGovern was the perfect choice for Little Women.  Her accent works superbly with the North American setting of this story about the March sisters and their domestic adventures as they try to overcome poverty and find friendship and love along the way.

When it came to The Jungle Book, I knew we needed someone who could capture not only the excitement of the story, but also all the light-heartedness of the different animals who appear in the story.  Who better to take this on but impressionist, comedian and actor, Alistair McGowan.  His recording of The Jungle Book brings Rudyard Kipling’s world to life in the most entertaining way.

I hope you enjoyed listening to them as much as we enjoyed recording them!

Alex Arlango, Commissioning Editor

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

Laura Dockrill: The Art of Storytelling

4 Jun

Laura Dockrill is a performance poet, illustrator and author of Darcy Burdock, which is now out on audiobook.

Laura Dockrill reads Darcy BurdockSpeaking what you’ve written out loud is sometimes like talking to an old friend or like looking back over bad photographs of yourself ten years ago; Greasy fringe, ill-fitting baggy trousers and light blue eye shadow. When it’s not in those sometimes moments it is really what story making is made for, the art of telling.

I’ve always been a person that hasn’t enjoyed being told to shut up. I’m not very good at sitting on the perimeter of the world like a boring fence and allowing the weeds to use me as some kind of ladder. My mum is far too strong to raise me to do that. When I was younger one of my favourite things to do was to drink cups of tea and talk for hours with my first and oldest friend Siobhan about all the films and books we’d read but we wouldn’t recommend them; we would take turns to re-tell them, from start to finish, describing characters, re-enacting their behaviour, setting scenes, talking camera angles and costume. We would love to do that. It was something about listening to each other describe what we were seeing after it had soaked through our brains and rinsed out through our mouths. It added to the electricity of the story; after the marinade, building our own opinions and adding commentary. For us, it was much better than experiencing first hand.

Darcy Burdock Audiobook

I come from a family of chatterboxes and have been encouraged always to tell stories. My Dad always said he taught me the ‘embroidery of truth’ and that’s about weaving your own fabric to a tapestry of story, that’s what makes it special and how you can make a stamp of ownership of something. Sometimes my family and I can sit around wasting hours re-telling stories of things that have happened to us, on holidays or from our childhood. We’ve all added our own bits and chip in on the punch-lines, although we’ve been doing it for so long that all the truth in them has evaporated and they are just plain pools of lies! But they are our lies that we’ve all created together and that’s why we like them.

I wanted to read my own words on the audiobook because I write how I talk. I want the listener to feel like I am on the tube with them, right in their ear hole, in the gym annoying them or accompanying them to the dry cleaners or whatever but mostly because I want all walks of lives to know my work as it’s meant to be understood; I don’t want to leave anybody out, my work is intended for everybody and should be accessible.

Buy the audiobook of Darcy Burdock by Laura Dockrill from AudioGO.

Kate Winslet reads Mr Gum

21 Sep

Kate Winslet reads Mr Gum

We recently released a new series of Mr Gum audiobooks read by Kate Winslet. So far, we’ve released 4 of Andy Stanton’s hugely popular Children’s books, read by the Hollywood actress. We spoke to Andy about the Mr Gum series and asked him what it was like to hear that Kate Winslet wanted to read his books.

“It was pretty surreal, I was half-asleep when my agent rang to tell me that Kate Winslet’s American agent had been in touch. ‘Why’s that then?’ I slurred. ‘Oh… oh, right, Kate wants to what? Do the audiobooks? Really? Really really?’ It seemed unlikely, to say the least. And it just kept on getting more and more unlikely.”

As Andy puts it, Kate “has the voice of an angel dipped in honey dipped in kittens’ tears, and her narration is a thing of beauty – it has authority and warmth and clarity.”

Read the full interview with Andy Stanton, author of Mr Gum.

Top 10 Summer Holiday Audiobooks for Kids

19 Jul

As the schools prepare to finish for the (hopefully) sunny summer we’re about to have, now is the time to think of ways to keep the children entertained for six weeks. Here at AudioGO, we’ve got a number of audiobooks to help reduce the boredom on a not so dry afternoon, make long car journeys seem far shorter and inspire the imagination. Here are our 10 favourite audiobooks for kids:

The Emperor’s New Clothes & Other Fairy Tales

The Emperor's New Clothes

Read by Sir Derek Jacobi, this classic fairy tale has been specially adapted for young children. Two weavers who are really swindlers promise the vain Emperor a new suit, invisible to those unfit for their position, incompetent or stupid. The emperor cannot see it, but doesn’t want to appear unfit for his position, as does almost everyone else in this ridiculously funny tale.

Buy The Emperor’s New Clothes Audiobook

The Brave Tin SoldierThe Brave Tin Soldier

Another classic fairy tale from Hans Christian Anderson, The Brave Tin Soldier is a story of a boy who, on his birthday, receives a set of 25 toy soldiers and spreads them on his table top. One soldier stands on a single leg, having been the last one cast from an old tin spoon. He falls in love with a paper ballerina, who is also standing on one leg. At night, a goblin in the boy’s toy collection tells the soldier to stop looking at the ballerina, but is ignored. The next day, the soldier falls through the window into the street. This tale follows his as he returns to the ballerina.

Buy the Brave Tin Soldier Audiobook

Aesop’s Fables

We have over 40 of Aesop’s Fables on audiobook, read by a variety of narrators including Jane Horrocks, Jonathan Pryce, Richard Briers and Richard Grant. This is a collection of fables credited to a slave and story-teller called Aesop, believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BC.

 Browse Aesop’s Fables

The Windvale Sprites

Written and read by Mackenzie Crook, The Windvale Sprites follows Asa Brown, who finds something strange in his garden pond after a storm. At first, it looks like a giant dragonfly, but on closer inspection, he could see it was something far more extraordinary. In this enchanting story, Asa embarks on a mission to Windvale Moor, where he finds out more about the mysterious creature.

Buy The Windvale Sprites Audiobook

Hollow Earth

Hollow Earth Audiobook

Written and read by John Barrowman, Hollow Earth is the story of twins Matt and Emily Calder who have such powerful imaginations that they can bring art to life. Villains want to use their powers to access the terrors of Hollow Earth- where all the demons, devils and monsters ever imagined are eternally trapped. The twins must make sure Hollow Earth is not breached, or they are as good as dead.

Buy Hollow Earth

The Worst Thing about My Sister

Marty and her sister Melissa don’t get along. They couldn’t be more different. Marty is a messy tomboy who loves animals, drawing and comics and Melissa is pink, girly, glittery and super-annoying. When Mum’s new dress-making business takes off, she needs a spare room in the house for her sewing, so the sisters have to share a room. Arguments follow, until one leads of a serious accident. Follow the girls’ conflict in this story written by Jacqueline Wilson.

Buy The Worth Thing About My Sister

The Butterfly Tiara

Written by Gwyneth Rees and read by Sophie Aldred, this enchanting adventure follows Ava, who spets inside Marietta’s Magic Dress Shop to find hundreds of beautiful dresses in every colour of the rainbow, sewn with magic thread. When she puts on a sparkling trapeze outfit with a dazzling butterfly tiara, Ava is transported back in time to a travelling circus, where she meets a baby elephant who performs tricks. She must reunite the baby with its mother before the cruel animal trainer finds her!

Buy The Butterfly Tiara

Precious and the Monkeys

This is a delightful story of Precious Ramotswe’s very first case, written by Alexander McCall Smith and read by Adjoa Andoh. Precious lives in Botswana, Africa and would grow up to be part of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, but must solve her first mystery while still at school as someone has been stealing from her friends.

Buy Precious and the Monkeys

Thomas and Friends: The Great Discovery

Hollywood star, Pierce Brosnan narrates this brand new feature-length story from the children’s favourite, Thomas & Friends. When Thomas discovers the long-lost town of Great Waterton and The Fat Controller says it will be restored to mark ‘Sodor Day’, a new engine called Stanley arrives to help. Thomas feels his position as the No. 1 engine is under threat so plays a trick on him. Unfortunately, it backfires and Thomas finds himself lost in a mine in this all-action adventure.

Buy Thomas And Friends: The Great Discovery audiobook read by Pierce Brosnan

Pingu: Hide and Seek & Other Stories

Recreated for audio by Chris Allen and narrated by Sarah Greene, these ten wonderfully magical adventures come from the popular TV series. This collection includes ‘Hide and Seek’, ‘School Time’, ‘Pingu and the Barrel Organ’, ‘Pingu’s Ice Cave’, ‘Pingu Plays Fish Tennis’, ‘Pingu Runs Away’, ‘Pingu and Pinga Stay Up’, ‘Noise’, ‘Grandpa is Ill’ and ‘Pingu and Pinga at Home’.

Buy Pingu: Hide and Seek & Other Stories

Do you have a favourite children’s audiobook?