Dear Book Lovers,

Summer often means family road trips. Today’s guest reviewer has a terrific suggestion for making these trips even more pleasurable.

Nancy

It had been awhile since I’d visited with the March sisters. So with a long drive ahead of me, it seemed like a good time. And soon, there we were, tootling down I-5—just me and Jo. And Meg and Beth and Amy. And Laurie and Marmee and Professor Bhaer and Aunt March and a host of minor characters all coming to life courtesy of Focus on the Family’s radio theatre presentation of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women.

It wasn’t the first radio theatre I’d listened to, so I knew I was in for a treat. On previous drives, I’d traveled to Narnia with the Pevensies, to Prince Edward Island with Anne of Green Gables, and to Nazi Germany twice, first with Corrie ten Boom, and then again with Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Focus on the Family radio theatre  for more possibilities).

With the March sisters, I traveled back not only to the Civil War era when the story is set, but also to my childhood when I remembered straddling a tree branch on our black walnut tree, my feet dangling ten feet over the lawn, a book open before me…

I still own a lot of the books I read back then. Most of them I’ve read more than once. I see them on my bookshelves and am drawn in, remembering….  But, there’s no time now to curl up on the couch, let alone climb a tree; I have another drive ahead of me. I haven’t finished Little Women yet; I grab the next CD and pop it in.

The music starts, drawing me in as if I were in a darkened theatre. A door creaks and I hear footsteps. Radio theatre is like listening to a full movie soundtrack, complete with music, special effects and a full cast of actors playing the different roles. I recognized several of the names, Gemma Jones (of the film, Sense and Sensibility) and Kate Maberly  (of The Secret Garden) among them, and quickly came to recognize the voices of different characters on the recording. There’s no overlap: Jo is Jo, and Amy is Amy.

Kids might initially prefer watching a movie on a DVD player in the backseat, but listening to radio theatre gets the whole car full involved, experiencing the story together.

I turn up the sound. “Marmee?” Jo’s familiar voice calls out, and Marmee responds. Then Laurie laughs, and I settle back in my seat. All I have to provide is my imagination. And maybe some laughter and tears. And nostalgia for time gone by.

Christine Tanzer lives in a high rise condo in California. There are no big black walnut trees to climb onto from her balcony, but her walls are covered with bookshelves. She’s planning her next road trip and is pondering which radio theatre drama to listen to next…

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