Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda

Book review: Four Children and It


Four Children and It audiobook

Matilda borrowed this audiobook from her local library.

Four Children and It by Jacqueline Wilson, read by Jacqueline Wilson, Bolinda Audio, ISBN 9781486234127

This book is based on another book called Five Children and It by Edith Nesbitt.

Four Children and It is about four children (Rosalind, her brother Robbie, her step-sister Smash, and half sister Maudie). They meet … something … that grants them a wish a day, which lasts until sunset. But what if something goes wrong?

It was exciting and Smash was selfish and annoying but Maudie was cute. It made me want to read Edith Nesbitt’s original story.

I picked up this audiobook at the library because I’m into Jacqueline Wilson’s books and I’ve read everything else by her in our library. I recommend this book for ages 7 and up. Even grandmas will enjoy it (well, mine did!).

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. Her most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of  Figgy and the President. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!


Meet Stig Wemyss: the voice of your favourite audiobook

Stig Wemyss reads books. Out loud. Lots and lots of books by all sorts of people like Andy Griffiths, Paul Jennings, Margaret Clark, Tim Winton, Stig Wemyss (himself!) and … well, HEAPS more. You might know him as the voice of The 13-Storey Treehouse audiobooks (he even reads the ‘audio illustrations’. Cool.). Stig Wemyss is someone we have wanted to interview for a long time … and what better month to do it in than June — to celebrate Hear a Story!

Stig Wemyss
Photo courtesy Stig Wemyss

So — what’s it like to be an audiobook narrator? Read on!


Where do you live?
I live in the back shelf of Andy Griffith’s fridge, behind the relish. Wait — Andy’s not going to see this is he? I really don’t want him to know I’m in here. Maybe it’s better if you just put “Melbourne, Victoria” and don’t mention the whole fridge thing … Um, can you close the door, the margarine is starting to melt.

What skills do you need to be the narrator for an audiobook? 
People underestimate how difficult it is to be narrator. Like, you have to be able to read, for a start. You have to have a whole range of different voices, you have to spend hours at a time locked in a little glass booth — so if you’re claustrophobic, forget about it — and you have to be a bit of an idiot. So as you can see, I tick all the boxes.

How did you find a job as an audiobook narrator?
I started narrating books about 25 years ago. Somebody recommended me to Vision Australia as an actor that might be good to narrate books for kids and young adults because of the youthful quality of my voice. And the fact that I would do it for free. I can’t remember what my first title was and I suspect I was probably not very good but for whatever reason, the producers loved it and continued to get me back. Not long after that, I narrated Tim Winton’s That Eye The Sky [a book for adults] which went on to win a number of audiobook awards and the rest, as they say, is history.

Do you discuss a book with its author and illustrator before you record it as an audiobook?
Most authors are happy to let narrators bring their own spin to a book. Andy Griffiths has given me a license to play around and be creative, providing I’m true to the text. I remember getting a letter from Nan Bodsworth after I had narrated one of her books saying how much she loved my performance. That was really nice, usually you never hear from the authors … unless it’s to ask you to move out of their fridge.

[Listen to an excerpt of Stig Wemyss narrating The 52-Storey Treehouse.]

The-52-storey treehouse audiobook

Do you get to choose which books you record?
Bolinda are fantastic at matching the right voice for the book. I’m lucky enough to have been asked to narrate over 150 books for Bolinda and I said yes to all of them. These days I even do live shows in schools and libraries around the country. (You can find out if I’m coming to a library near you on the internet. Just look for Stig Live @ The Library.) 

You wrote The Tripp Diaries specifically as an audiobook. What’s different about writing a book that’s intended to be an audiobook, rather than one to be read in traditional fashion?
Audio is a whole different medium, it is theatre of the mind. With audio, you can create fantastical, larger-than-life scenarios using music and sound effects so you can take the listener on a journey well beyond what you could just with the written word. It’s sort of like animation with your eyes closed.

When you read in your own time, do you prefer to read books the traditional way or do you prefer audiobooks?
I love reading and I love listening. The great thing about an audio book is you can read it anywhere, anytime … and while you’re doing something else. Driving, cleaning, exercising, knitting, shearing a sheep, painting a house, doing homework, pretending to be asleep, on a bus, on a train, at the beach … these are all things I’ve done while listening to an audio book. Reading I tend to do in bed.

Do you have any tips for young people who would like to record audiobooks (or perhaps podcasts)?
Go for it! Make up something crazy and outrageous and record it. Make up silly voices and crazy sound effects. There is no limit to the fun you can have with audio, it’s a playground for your imagination.

Hear a Story, See a Story, Feel a Story ©-ACLA. Image used with permission.

This post is part of the celebrations of Hear a Story … and Hear a Story is part of the work of the Australian Children’s Laureate, Jackie French. You can find out more about Hear a Story on the Australian Children’s Laureate site. And check out our other interviews this month with an oral storyteller (Glenn B Swift), and with Jackie French herself.

For more about STIG WEMYSS and his audiobooks, check out his website!

Interview with Stig Wemyss © June 2015 Stig Wemyss & Rebecca Newman
Book reviews by kids, Book reviews by Matilda

Book review: Tales of Wisdom and Wonder


Tales of wisdom and wonder

Tales of Wisdom and Wonder, retold by Hugh Lupton, illustrated by Niamh Sharkey, Barefoot Books, ISBN 1905236840

Matilda reviewed her own copy of this book.

This is a book of old folktales from different countries. The stories are Haitian, Cree, English, French, West African, Russian and Irish. It comes with a CD so you can listen to the stories as well as read. There are seven folktales in the book and my favourite was ‘The Curing Fox’ (it’s Cree) because it’s like an old memory and I like listening to the CD of it best because it’s kind of poetic. Before I saw this book I had never come across these folktales.

There are more words than pictures on each page but I like the illustrations, they are easy to see. I like how the colours are not normal colours you see in a picture book — there are dark colours and colours that make you feel cold. The artist has used simple shapes and they suit the stories.

People who like fairytales, folktales and animals would like this book. Six to ten year olds would like it best and it can be relaxing to listen to Hugh Lupton telling the stories on the CD.

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. Her most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of  Harriet the Spy. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!

Book reviews by kids

Book review: Fantastic Mr Fox

Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl (audiobook), read by Lionel Jeffries, BBC Audiobooks UK, ISBN 9781408483770

fantastic mr fox audiobook


Matilda borrowed this audiobook from her local library.

I like listening to audiobooks because they make you have an idea of the picture in your head. With this audiobook I could read along with the book while I listened but sometimes I just like listening without the book. I like the voices they have for the characters.

Fantastic Mr Fox is about a family of 6 foxes (4 children and 2 adults). Mr Fox has a very clever brain and every night he makes sure the wind is blowing towards him so he can go out and steal some dinner from the 3 farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean. The 3 farmers are really mean and they try to catch the foxes because they want to shoot them. I like this story because it’s exciting and the foxes can dig faster than any other animal.

Most kids from 5 and up would love this book but little kids might need a grownup there to help with the scary bits.

I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Matilda is one of our regular book reviewers. Her most recent review (if you don’t count this one) was of  Pearl Verses the World. If YOU would like to send us a book review, check out our submission guidelines. Happy reading!