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We own a much-loved boxed set of Roald Dahl paperbacks but, for some reason, the set doesn't include either Revolting Rhymes or Dirty Beasts. When I spotted both books combined in an audiobook format, I thought it would be the ideal way for my children to enjoy these two fun books in a really accessible format.
There are two versions of this audiobook currently available but I rented the earlier version featured here which has both Geoffrey Palmer and Pam Ferris narrating the audio. Given that this CD features two completely separate Roald Dahl books, I assumed that one narrator would be reading one story with Pam Ferris reading the other. In actual fact, both Palmer and Ferris read together which works incredibly well, as it gives one of them the opportunity to narrate the rhyme with the other providing particular character's voices
Both Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts are written entirely in rhyme, with Revolting Rhymes being Dahl's hilarious take on some of the more traditional fairy tales. Here we have a new and fun spin put on Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and The Three Little Pigs, amongst three other familiar stories. The 'stories' are essentially transformed into poems which works brilliantly in this format as this means that the CD is broken down into small chunks, ideal for listening to on short car journeys.
My particular favourite is Cinderella, which has a particularly empowering twist to the original story with Cinders discovering that Prince Charming is not at all charming and, rather than passively waiting to be rescued, she takes control of her own destiny most effectively! This particular poem did take me by surprise a little as it uses the word 'slut' which is not a phrase that I'd particularly like my boys to be using! Within the context of this story, however, it's used as more of a term for 'dirty' rather than the sexualised way in which we tend to use it nowadays and I really don't think my boys even noticed the word anyway.
Likewise, Little Red Riding Hood is much more feisty than the vulnerable character we have all grown up with and a much stronger role model for young girls growing up surrounded by stereotypes and talk of 'princesses'. This Red Riding Hood isn't going to need rescuing - particularly when she has something concealed within her knickers! As with all of the poems, the reading and the pace makes it entertaining to listen to and easy to memorise, without any effort.
Dirty Beasts is a collection of humorous poems about specific animals and creepie crawlies which follows straight after on the same disc, which is much more convenient than having to swap between different CD's. All of the rhymes are indexed separately, making it easy to skip, repeat or fast forward to specific favourites. Out of this collection, our favourites are 'The Scorpion', 'The Anteater' and 'The Porcupine.' I did have to explain the Porcupine to my five year old initially, however, as a lot of the humour within that tale surrounds a misunderstanding between a very hungry anteater and an American boy's old Aunt. (My son didn't quite grasp the subtlety of the American boy's pronunciation of the word 'Aunt' as 'Ant' which, as you can imagine with Dahl's twisted sense of humour led to tragic consequences!)
Dahl's fantastic humour and his control of the rhyme and rhythm of the fairy tales and poems in both collections means that they flow quickly and easily, making them a delight to listen to. Having two different narrators working together offers so much variety, particularly as the actors' voices are so versatile anyway and really able to convey the necessary emotion of individual characters.
I particularly enjoy Geoffrey Palmer's impression of an increasingly hysterical young girl in 'The Scorpion.' This is one of the shorter tales but the one we listen to most frequently as the ending has both my two year old and five year old in fits of giggles as the poor girl ends up with 'Sting a Ling' on her bottom!
In terms of age recommendation, I would say the appeal of this audiobook ranges from around two up to ten years old (fortunately covering the ages of my own children!) My oldest son was a little unimpressed with my choice of CD for the car when I first produced this one - particularly as the first story introduced is the traditionally feminine Cinderella- but he was soon just as enthralled and entertained as his younger brothers. At the higher end of the age range, in all honesty, I genuinely enjoy listening to this CD - even as an adult- and it is one that I'm happy to enjoy rather than just tolerate for the sake of keeping the kids quiet in the car!
This audiobook can currently be purchased from Amazon for £9 but I rented my copy for free from my local library, on a child's library card. Usually I would recommend renting for audiobooks as most are unlikely to be listened to repeatedly but this particular CD is one that I could actually imagine being enjoyed on a regular basis without becoming boring or repetitive, particularly for younger children who tend to like the familiarity of rhyming stories and are happy to listen to them over and over again.
n Dirty Beasts, meet a ghastly menagerie of wonderfully comic animals that can only have been invented by Roald Dahl. There is the toad that jumps to France - at his own peril; the pig who ponders the meaning of life; the ant-eater who gets the wrong end of the stick and lots more. Snigger, titter and laugh at their antics in this collection of irreverent and absurdly comic verse! In Revolting Rhymes, think again if you thought you knew the stories of some of the most popular fairy tales. Here are six of the best known retold, with more than a twist or two, by the master of the comic and the blood-curdling.