Gr 4-8-The perennial fascination with Frances Hodgeson Burnett's classic story has made it a vehicle for a variety of adaptations. This audio presentation by the Saint Charles Players is an unsuccessful attempt to make the story into a radio-style version. The best work is done by the narrator who weaves story text between dialogue that is sometimes flat and sometimes overacted. Sound effects are helpful and the musical interludes pleasant, but overall this offering lacks dramatic intensity. The tapes must be played on a stereo player or part of the story can't be heard. A better choice for listeners who want to listen to the entire story would be the unabridged reading by Flo Gibson for Recorded Books (1987).-Barbara S. Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT
Soothing and mellifluous, native Briton Bailey's voice proves an excellent instrument for polishing up a new edition of Burnett's story. Bratty and spoiled Mary Lennox is orphaned when her parents fall victim to a cholera outbreak in India. As a result, Mary becomes the ward of an uncle in England she has never met. As she hesitantly tries to carve a new life for herself at imposing and secluded Misselthwaite Manor, Mary befriends a high-spirited boy named Dickon and investigates a secret garden on the Manor grounds. She also discovers a sickly young cousin, Colin, who has been shut away in a hidden Manor room. Together Mary and Dickon help Colin blossom, and in the process Mary finds her identity and melts the heart of her emotionally distant uncle. Bailey makes fluid transitions between the voices and accents of various characters, from terse Mrs. Medlock and surly groundskeeper Ben to chipper housemaid Martha. And most enjoyably, she gives Mary a believably childlike voice. A brief biography of the author is included in an introduction. Ages 6-12. (June) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.