In 2004, I started a fun project as a way of making a very personal Christmas gift for my niece. At the time, my sister and her fledgling family lived in Paris, so we didn’t even have the opportunity to meet our niece until she was several months old. Because of this, I knew that I would miss getting to sit and read her her favorite books—something I was thoroughly enjoying with Sara’s (now also my) nieces—so I decided I would record myself reading some of my favorite stories, and give her the books and a nicely packaged CD for Christmas. With plenty of pictures of me to look at, and the soothing sounds of my voice reading great stories, I hoped my niece would think of me often, and fondly.
The first CD really was mostly a bunch of my favorite stories, plus Mr. Brown Can Moo and The Tale of Peter Rabbit. It was also my first attempt at doing any kind of serious audio production on the computer. I was using a cheap headset mic, and I had to do quite a bit of noise removal, and actually ended up removing all of my really obvious breath noises by hand. Add in some chimes to indicate a page turn, and that was pretty much it.
When I gave it to her at Christmas she loved the pictures of me, and loved the books, but didn’t really know what to think of the CD. She figured it out soon enough, and ended up really loving it. In fact, this CD and the subsequent ones have been so successful, that apparently now Emma and her brothers will give my sis a very hard way to go if they forget to bring “Uncle Matthew” along on long car rides. Success!
I’ve had a few people suggesting and requesting that I put these recordings online, so that’s just what I’m going to do. Here is my favorite reading from that very first CD.
Where the Wild Things Are was always one of my absolute favorites as a kid. It was stylistically distinctive, and the story was engaging and personal. What kid can’t identify with Max, who found a world of wonder that he could control, but finally realized that it’s no fun being somewhere without people who love you. I’m not sure how much subtext my young mind gleaned from this book, but I was always touched by the warm dinner that was waiting for him at home–it said to me that, even when you’re bad, even when you’re being punished, your mother still loves you, and I think that’s a very important thing for a kid to understand.
This was my first reading, and my niece was just over a year old, so I was reading very slowly and deliberately, trying hard to enunciate clearly. Listening to it again, I think perhaps the page-turn chimes were a bit hurried, but it seems to have all worked out ok. You can let me know what you think in the comments.