Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Audiobook Review: Strider by Beverly Cleary

Strider by Beverly Cleary, narrated by George Guidall. Grades 4-8. Morrow Junior Books, 1991. Audiobook produced by Recorded Books, 1992. 179 pages. 2 hours, 30 minutes. Reviewed from library copy.

Okay, someone apparently needs to come and take away my librarian card* because I had no idea that Strider was a sequel to Dear Mr. Henshaw. And I wish I had known because I loved Dear Mr. Henshaw when I was a kid and I would have loved to read this book.

It's been several years since Leigh Botts wrote in the journal that Mr. Henshaw encouraged him to start. Now he's about to start high school and life is pretty good. Leigh's got a best friend, Barry, and the two of them adopt an abandoned dog they found on the beach. Leigh and Barry plan to share custody of Strider, but things soon get complicated. Can Leigh and Barry figure it out without hurting their friendship? As Leigh's dealing with all of this, he's also starting high school, making new friends, meeting girls, and figuring out who he's turning out to be.

Again, I just have to give Beverly Cleary props for writing a book about a tween boy dealing with all the emotions that come with growing up. Even though the book was written in 1991, Leigh's voice feels authentic.  Leigh's story is a quiet, reflective one. It's not like a lot of what's being published at the moment - funny, wacky, adventurous, etc. And Strider (and Dear Mr. Henshaw, too) may not appeal to the masses, but it's a book that's going to fit a need in some boys. Boys who are dealing with some of these same problems and who need to know that it's okay to have feelings about things.

I really enjoyed George Guidall's narration of the book, too. He gives a simple, solid performance. The audio recording doesn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but I think that makes it perfectly suited to the tone of the book. Since the novel is made up of Leigh's journal entries, it makes sense not to have a voiced performance. Sometimes I feel like older recordings sound dated and dry, but in this case I think Mr. Guidall's narration stands up to the passing of time.

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