Saturday, November 17, 2018

Mature Women Should Read Children's Stories

Tired of politics and non-fiction brainiac books, I've gone back to listening to children's books from around 1900. This time, I found the complete set of Oz books, read by Sean Murphy, for less than a dollar on Audible. That was a no-brainer, so I bought it and listened to The Wizard of Oz on the flight from San Diego to Providence on Tuesday. I tried to get into The Marvelous Land Of Oz on the return flight, but I gave up very early in the book.

I can't tell if it was the writing or the reader, but I was distinctly underwhelmed. It could not hold a candle to the Edith Nesbitt books I listened to a while back. First off, Sean just doesn't work as a storyteller for children. He tries hard, perhaps too hard, but he just doesn't have the warmth and ... love, is it? ... you need for the job. Sean's got a bit of the gay voice lilt* which doesn't help. Instead of being immersed in the story, you wonder about Sean. It was like having a flute play the saxophone line in a jazz piece. The voice artist worked hard, but it wasn't right.

Since the performance moved slowly and words were simple, I was able to imagine reading the prose as he went along to separate the performance from the story. What I really wondered was how it would sound if a woman read it.

My mom was (and still is) a great mom. She read me lots and lots of stories when I was a child. As I was sick a great deal of the time, she had lots and lots of chances to do so. She would even do a very nice, British accent when she read things like Peter Rabbit. There was so much love and warmth in her reading! That's certainly why I associate children's books with happiness.

It's got to be a woman reading the book. My Air Force pilot dad, who was away much of time, would tell me stories that he made up, but he didn't read to me and that was probably a good thing. His masculine voice and firm diction worked for his farm-based stories, but it would have been completely out of place elsewhere. Children's books need a woman reader or the spell is broken.

Just now, I'm walking through the Audible versions of Oz, trying the sample excerpts to find a good one. Meh. There are lots and lots read by young women, but they don't seem to work, either. You need that rich, mature, woman's voice. You need a mom's voice.

A first edition.

* - I despise identity politics with a passion, but I would argue that there are vocal characteristics to certain groups. Men and women have different voices, blacks and whites have different voices and, sometimes, gays and straights have different voices. It's not that it carries with it a personal judgment, it's that some voices don't work for some things. For example, a black simply must be the voice artist for a reading of Uncle Remus or the whole thing can be dismissed out of hand.


ligneus said...

Maybe it's a guy thing but when my kids were small I used to make up stories to tell them, many were of 'Three Little......' for instance The Three Little Ants whose names were Jim, Flo and Arbuthnot, The Three Little Giants whose names were Sun, Bun and Dustbinlid. And my favourite short one.....
Once upon a time there were three little flowers whose names were Rose, Lily and Hollyhock. One very hot day, Mary, Mary Quite Contrary forgot to come an water the garden. They wilted more and more under the hot sun until Hollyhock, being the tallest raised her drooping head and said, 'Please Lord, send some rain'. Nothing happened for a while, then a couple of clouds appeared, then more, the sky blackened, a huge thunderstorm erupted, the rain came down like a waterfall and flattened all the flowers.

OK, Hans Christian Andersen it ain't, but they were fun.

K T Cat said...

LOL! I had a pair of friends who had been in the Navy. They would come over for parties and insist on reading our oldest son his bedtime story when the time came.

Until then, I had no idea that Cinderella lived in Naples and was very interested when the fleet came in for a port call.


ligneus said...

Sound like a couple of great guys, yeah, America's going to be OK!

lee said...

When my husband's sons were little, he used to read to them every night from Field & Stream.