Thursday, March 25, 2010

Top 100, Wind in the Willows, and Playaway

On the Top 100 Children’s Novels, The Wind in the Willows, and Playaway 

Like most kidlit bloggers, I have been happily following Fuse #8’s countdown of the Top 100 Children’s Novels. The books were chosen by creating aggregate scores, derived from the rankings of top-ten favorites as submitted by readers. I submitted my top ten (with Wind in the Willows a close second to Where the Red Fern Grows), but I must confess that most days, when I read Fuse #8, I am slapping my hand against my head wondering, “Why didn’t I think of that one?” In any case, with hindsight or not, I would never make a top ten list without Kenneth Grahame’s, The Wind in the Willows (1908). Of all the books that I read in elementary school, Mole, Rat, Toad, and Badger stuck with me like old friends throughout the years.

I was glad to see that it made the Top 100 in the Fuse #8 poll, though I wish it had been a little higher than #53. Read Elizabeth Bird’s post on #s 55-51, for a complete discussion on this, one of my favorite books of all time. (you'll have to scroll down to #53)

So what does this all have to do with Playaway? Well, upon seeing Willows crack the Top 100 list, I had the urge to experience it again, but in a 21st century framework. I checked out the Playaway version, read by Ralph Coshman and published by Findaway World, Cleveland, Ohio. If you’re not familiar with Playaway audio books, they are single-purpose, multi-use, mp3 players. It’s a very simple mp3 player loaded with one book and lacking recording capabilities. It has basic command buttons – on/off, play/pause, fast forward, reverse, volume. It begins each time at the farthest listening point. That’s it! Easy as pie. Larger than a typical mp3, but smaller than an iTouch, they’re durable, portable and convenient. Your public library should offer them.

Ralph Coshman’s audio delivery of the characters is superb. He flows from one richly developed character to the next with effortless grace. Grahame’s scenic narrations come alive under the spell of Coshman’s voice.

Read it or listen to it, but by any means, check out the classic, Wind in the Willows.

A side note that speaks to the enduring popularity of The Wind in the Willows – Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, based on the book’s arrogant but loveable miscreant, is still a staple attraction at Disneyland in California. When Disneyworld shut down its version of Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride in 1998, ninety years after the book’s publication, it was to the dismay of many fans. A quick search of the internet will find numerous web sites and a Facebook page dedicated to saving Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.


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