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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 7, 2003

Audio books can nourish young minds

By Jolie Jean Cotton
Special to The Advertiser

Books on tape are a big hit with our family. If you plan to travel with children during the holidays, I highly recommend investing in an inexpensive cassette tape player and taking along a good audio book. On planes, small earphones help, too.

Books on tape can nourish the imagination anywhere, during a drive across the island, or at home while you prepare dinner. You can borrow previously published children's books on tape for up to three weeks from your local library. Or splurge and purchase audio books at a local bookstore. Here are a few of our recently released favorites:

"Inkheart," By Cornelia Funke, Lynn Redgrave reader, Listening Library, ages 10 and up, $45

This masterfully written fantasy, read by award-winning actress Lynn Redgrave, grabs you from the first line and never lets go.

The story opens with 12-year-old Meggie living a quiet life with her father, Mo, a bookbinder. Meggie does not understand why her father won't read to her. But Mo has a secret he discovered when Meggie was just a baby. Incredible things happen when Mo reads aloud; the characters literally climb out of the pages and into the real world.

One night when Mo reads aloud from a story called "Inkheart," several of its wicked characters appear in his cottage. An evil ruler named Capricorn escapes from the story, and Meggie's mother becomes trapped within the tale.

This wonderful story about books, imagination, fiction and fact runs 15 1/2- hours and includes 10 cassette tapes.

"Hoot," By Carl Hiaasen, Chad Lowe reader, Listening Library, ages 10 and up, $26

Author Carl Hiaasen, known for his Miami Herald newspaper columns and best-selling novels for adults, employs his satirical wit in his first novel for young adults. Pro-environment, anti-development messages permeate the engaging tale.

Middle-school student Roy Eberhardt has just moved from Montana to Florida. The new kid in town is at once attacked by a bully on the school bus and captivated by a mysterious shoeless stranger he sees through the bus window during the incident.

Roy quickly learns someone has been vandalizing the nearby construction site of a planned Pancake House. Hiaasen neatly ties the story lines together when Roy discovers that the shoeless boy has been disrupting construction to save a group of endangered owls. Roy has to help his new friend, whom he calls Mullet Fingers, fend off the bully and adjust to life in his new neighborhood.

Reader Chad Lowe's voice performance does justice to Hiaasen's quirky characters, improbable plot twists and slapstick sense of humor.

"Double Fudge," By Judy Blume, Random House Audio Publishing, ages 8-11, $18

Fans of seventh-grader Peter Hatcher and his young brother Fudge will enjoy this comic adventure in which the New York City Hatchers meet their distant cousins from Hawai'i. When 5-year-old Fudge Hatcher becomes obsessed with money, a trip to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., is in order. While in Washington, the family unexpectedly encounters the Honolulu Hatchers, including nearly unbearable twins, Fauna and Flora. Unlike Peter and Fudge, the Hawai'i Hatcher twins are home-schooled, don't consume sugar or watch TV, and perform together as the Heavenly Hatchers. Peter is mortified when his eccentric relatives invite themselves to New York to stay in his family's cramped apartment.

The story, read by the author, runs 2 hours and 50 minutes over two cassettes.

A final thought about books on tape for holiday gift-giving: Consider tape-recording your own version of a favorite children's book and include the tape with the book. For a grandchild, niece or nephew, hearing your voice on tape can be a priceless gift.

Honolulu writers Jolie Jean Cotton and James Rumford alternate in producing this column, which is published on the first Sunday of each month.