Friday, September 11, 2009


It's been awhile since I've listened to a Full Cast Audio production, so I was glad to get my ears on Nurk: The Strange, Surprising Adventures of a (Somewhat) Brave Shrew by Ursula Vernon (whose website I was unable to open in Explorer, but worked OK in Firefox). Nurk is a timid guy who receives a letter requesting help intended for his adventurous grandmother. He determines that he will ride to the rescue, despite his fearfulness, and he sets off in his snailshell boat. The letter came from a dragonfly princess, whose brother has been kidnapped by the terrifying, tentacled Grizzlemole. Nurk journeys to the heart of the mole's lair, using his shrew qualities to rescue a somewhat snotty, unappreciative prince, and heads home with his head high ... and likely ready for new adventures.

The audiobook has all the goodies we like from a Full Cast recording: Delightful, evocative music, some nifty sound effects, and a lively reading. The narrator, Bill Knowlton, reads with an avuncular style that kept the story moving along. The young reader portraying Nurk (no more names, alas ... the cast isn't on the FCA website and my copy isn't available) has a sweet innocence that sounds authentic and doesn't cloy. There are some memorable audio portraits in the Carp, and the King and Prince of the dragonflies. A frog chorus is particularly fun -- even more so when I learned from the credits that it was just one guy. Ah, the magic of audio production.

I'm not so fond of the girls/women in this production. The reader portraying Nurk's grandmother Surka sounds fake old and quavery and the studio effect that alters her voice isn't very pleasant to listen to and makes her difficult to understand. The younger reader voicing the dragonfly princess sounds sort-of middle-aged and husky. And, as is almost always the case with these audiobooks, there are just a few expressionless clunkers of line readings that made me wince while listening.

Still, I enjoy these productions. They put a different spin on book listening that's always interesting, and I thought this particular production enhanced a familiar animal tale. I like that I can always recommend FCA for the all-ages car trip ... except I was surprised to see that they recently produced Graceling ... isn't that a little racy?

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