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My sons and I have long been fans of Francesca Simon's excellent series of 'Horrid Henry' stories. Having enjoyed reading the paperback versions and watching the television series, we have also listened to several of the books on audio CD which is another fantastic way to bring this series to life.
Horrid Henry is a character who lives up to his nickname, normally at the expense of his far too perfect little brother, Perfect Peter and much to the exasperation of his long-suffering parents. This particular story 'Horrid Henry's Underpants' is probably our favourite book out of the entire series and this CD is true to the original paperback version, featuring four short stories; Horrid Henry Eats a Vegetable, Horrid Henry's Underpants, Horrid Henry's Sick day and Horrid Henry's Thank You Letter.
The first story 'Horrid Henry Eats a Vegetable' is a fun opening to this set, although not our personal favourite. As a parent, this one does appeal to me as Henry's parents manage the rare feat of actually getting one over on Henry, following an attempt at bribery to persuade Henry to eat his greens.
'Horrid Henry's Underpants' is an unlikely and totally silly tale of Henry ending up wearing a pair of pink frilly knickers to school. This is, unsurprisingly, one that really appeals to my boys, particularly my five year old son who finds anything connected with bums and underwear hilarious. The subsequent story 'Horrid Henry's Sick Day' sees the resourceful Henry trying to fake an illness to earn a day off school with the final story of the four being the most listened to (and the shortest.) 'Horrid Henry's Thank You Letter' is a story that genuinely makes me laugh out loud, as the ingenious hero tries to avoid the loathed chore of writing thank you letters. Ever the entrepreneur, Henry hits on a way of turning this into a money making scheme, with the inevitable retributions when the results of his handiwork are discovered!
All of the stories are read in their unabridged form with the CD running for a total of one hour and ten minutes, although the short story format makes this ideal to dip in and out of without needing to listen to the CD in its entirety. We first listened to this during our annual trip to Butlins, where we were able to alternate Horrid Henry stories with other CD's to provide some much needed distraction during the long journey.
Whilst the content of the stories and Francesca Simon's ability to bring such a memorable (and surprisingly likeable) character to life are more than enough reason to read or listen to this collection, one of the major advantages of this audiobook format is the really well thought out sound effects that truly add something extra to the story. In 'Horrid Henry Eats a Vegetable' for instance, the CD features fun musical squashing sound effects as Horrid Henry desperately tries to squash his loathed peas into nothingness. Other sounds and instruments are used to effectively illustrate Henry's state of mind, often despair, as his plans end up backfiring! The entertaining and memorable sound effects that feature both within and between each story add a totally different dimension to the story, making this a format that should appeal to little boys who may be reluctant to read books in the ordinary format.
Likewise, Miranda Richardson (of Blackadder fame) is an excellent choice for a narrator, with her voice being incredibly versatile and able to realistically convey the voice of Horrid Henry and all of his emotions whilst also clearly providing the voices for the other characters without any confusion.
The slipcase advises that this is suitable for children aged between three and nine years old, which seems a fairly accurate age range based on my own experience. My two year old will listen to this, however, and enjoys the sound of the trumpets and other silly noises during the CD but I'm not convinced that he is able to follow the gist of the stories as yet. My ten year old son has listened to this several times over the years and will tolerate this one (supposedly for the benefit of his younger brother) but I probably wouldn't buy this for a child of his age, as his Horrid Henry days are more or less behind him (although he still finds the books undeniably funny!)
This particular book remains a favourite in my household and this format is definitely one to consider for long (or even short) journeys as a way to keep your own Horrid Henry and Perfect Peter quiet during car journeys. It certainly adds an extra element of entertainment to a collection that is already entertaining and appealing in its own right.