Puffin Children's Audiobooks - Review

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Bud, at six is just starting out on his journey through reading independently and I'm so excited to set out on this road with him. I was an avid reader as a child (still am) and, of course, this means that there are a good few books that I'd love him to read and enjoy just as much as I did. He's a confident reader at the moment and I've been trying to encourage his reading at home without pushing too many of my own favourites on him. Coincidentally Ian and I had been talking about involving the kids more in what we listen to in the car and audiobooks had come up as an idea there. When we were offered the chance to review some of the Puffin Children's Audiobooks, from Mumsnet Bloggers Network, it couldn't have been more timely and I hoped it would be a great way to get Bud involved in a story without tiring him out in the way some of the 'bigger' reads can.

We were invited to choose three books from a selection and the three I chose were as follows: The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy, The Complete Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis and Roald Dahl Reads Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Other Stories. There was a wide range of titles to choose from but I went for these as classics from my childhood and those that we would enjoy listening to as a whole family. All of the audiobooks are presented on CD in deep plastic cases which keeps them all together and protect them from sticky fingers and scratches.
Puffin Children's Audiobooks - Review Worst Witch Chronicles of Narnia Roald Dahl Reads

The first set of CDs we started to listen to were Roald Dahl Reads Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Other Stories. This set contains five stories presented over three CDs. The stories included are Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Enormous Crocodile and The Magic Finger. The first two stories are abridged while the latter three are unabridged. Bud was so excited to see this CD as Roald Dahl has been a feature of their learning in school this term and they have been reading The BFG there. He was really pleased to have some more stories to listen to and couldn't wait to get started.

With this particular set of CDs we did something different than with the others. Bud has had the book version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sitting on his bookshelf for some time now but has dismissed it as a bit 'too hard'. We decided that we would try listening to the audio book and then reading the chapters between us and we've been doing that at bedtime over the past couple of weeks. This has been a real success with Bud and he can't wait for his next session with the CD and book. We tend to only read a few pages and listen on with the corresponding story but it's quite magical to read the words together and then hear Roald Dahl's voice speaking his own words. We actually have all but one of these stories at home already so I think we will be continuing our 'project' with the other discs in this set. It's been a fantastic way to start him with Roald Dahl at home.

Our next set of CDs found it's way into the car straight away and we've made our way through the first book of The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy. The set comprises four books - The Worst Witch, The Worst Witch Strikes Again, A Bad Spell for the Worst Witch and The Worst Witch All at Sea and they are unabridged. They are read by Gemma Arterton, the actress famous for her role in St Trinian's and Quantum of Solace. Her voice is really well suited to Mildred Hubble's adventures and these CDs instantly transported me to my youth when I would borrow the first three The Worst Witch stories from the library and devour them. I read all of them several times and I'm quite glad I never knew the agonising wait for the next one as it didn't come out until 1993, when I was 16!

Both Bud and LM have been really interested in The Worst Witch, Bud is used to listening to stories at school but, as LM is that little bit younger (4), I was quite surprised that she could follow along with the stories too and we've already had to sit in the car for a few minutes as we were attempting to park at a crucial moment in the story! Gemma Arterton's narration is perfect for the story and she makes the story even more engaging. I can see this being incredibly popular on our car journeys over the next few months.

The final set of CDs we were sent is simply wonderful. The Chronicles of Narnia plays a massive part in the childhood reading of so many people. As soon as it arrived it got Ian and I talking about when we remembered discovering the stories, which we read first, who our favourite characters were and so much more. This is so much more than a simple audiobook, in fact it's a dramatic performance presented by a full cast which makes it delightful to listen to. The cast includes Bernard Cribbins, Sylvester McCoy, Richard Griffiths, Fiona Shaw and Timothy Spall (I can guarantee that if you're thinking, that sounds like... then it probably is them!) The seven stories are presented across 14 CDs and 15 hours so it might be a set to enjoy across a full holiday. We decided to present the stories in the way that we were introduced them and the 'traditional' order, starting with The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Both Bud and LM have seen the wonderful film adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe which helped when introducing the audiobook. Bud did find it a little harder to follow than the simply narrated books (commenting that it was like watching TV with no picture) but after a little while he decided 'I'm going to turn off my eyes Mummy', which really helped him to grasp the different people speaking and follow better. It really is so wonderful to listen to and I can't recommend this set highly enough. I feel like it is one that we will return to again and again as a family in the future.

We've really enjoyed our first experience with children's audiobooks and I think they are definitely something that we will expand upon in future especially in the car and as 'read along' bedtime stories. They have added an extra dimension to reading with my children and I've loved sharing some of my favourites from my childhood with my older two. It's been the perfect way to do so.

Mumsnet have pulled together some of their own recommendations for 'the best audiobooks for children' click through to read their suggestions and listen to samples of the audiobooks, including those I have featured above.

Do your families enjoy audiobooks? Which are their favourites?

I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity.