Henry and the Paper Route
Beverly Cleary, , read by Neil Patrick Harris. . HarperChildren's Audio, $22 ( , unabridged, three CDs, 3.5 hours, $22 ISBN p) ISBN 978-0-06-089831-1
The well-loved cast of characters is all here in this Cleary classic—Henry Huggins and pooch Ribsy, Beezus and her little sister Ramona the Pest. Youthful television actor Harris breathes life into the gang, and his versatility and boyish charms are on full display. In this tale of childhood ambition and ingenuity, 10-year-old Henry devises various schemes to realize his dream of starting a paper route, including an offer of free kittens for new subscriptions. Always lurking is unpredictable four-year-old Ramona. Unfortunately, she represents the narration's one trouble spot. Harris tends to overdo Ramona's voice, rendering her lines in a demanding scream-whine. She comes across as pest-like and annoying for sure, but lacking in dimension, as well. Otherwise, Harris flawlessly animates the entire neighborhood, from sweet and innocent Henry to cocky Scooter to lisping boy genius Murph. Originally written in 1957, this story may leave today's parents wistful about an era with such a carefree childhood. Kids, however, should still recognize themselves in these characters, clear as day. The audiobook also contains an insightful interview with Cleary. Ages 8-up.
Reviewed on: 08/21/2006