Yesterday, my 10 year old son and I were eating lunch together at the mall. We were quiet, each of us lost in our thoughts, when suddenly he exclaimed, "I really like Around the World in 80 Days! It's such a great story!"
As great as Jules Verne's book is, and indeed it's one of my favorites, Mr. Verne can only take partial credit for my son's ardor. The rest of the credit has to go to Jim Dale, whose wonderful narration of the book we have been listening to. Jim Dale, who is best known as the U.S. narrator of the Harry Potter books, has a remarkable voice and an ability to bring any story to life. Athough I have read the book before, I found myself literally holding my breath in unbearable suspense as the members of the Reform Club waited and the clock ticked towards 8:45. (My only criticism of this audio book is the cover, which features a balloon, one mode of transportation that wasn't used by Phileas Fogg and Passepartout. Hello?)
We also recently listened to Dale's narration of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and although it's an old favorite that we've read many times, Dale opens up new dimensions to the story with his narration and his voices.
There are so many excellent classics like these that children could benefit from being exposed to. But let's face it, some of the classics are difficult to read because of modern changes in language and writing styles. An excellent reading of these books can make them much more understandable and more vivid to a modern audience. And, I'll bet that a lot of children and adults have listened to these audio books just because it's Jim Dale, thus exposing them to something they may not have read on their own. I hope that Jim Dale will continue to read more of the best classics to help keep them alive for modern audiences.