By Stephanie Ciccarelli
April 20, 2009
Did you grow up reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Mother and actress, Gwyneth Paltrow had a great time narrating this modern classic in a collection of recordings called "Brown Bear & Friends" (Macmillan Audio 2008) penned by Bill Martin Jr. with illustrations by Eric Carle.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, first published in 1967, began a great collaborative friendship between author Bill Martin Jr. (1916-2004) and author / illustrator, Eric Carle. Entertaining and enriching the minds of generations, three of their books, specifically, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?; and Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? are included in "Brown Bear & Friends". The newest addition, Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See? is also on the CD. Collectively, Martin Jr. and Carle's collaborative efforts have sold more than eleven million copies worldwide.
A GRAMMY Nominee in the category of Best Spoken Word Album for Children, the Brown Bear & Friends CD was directed and produced by Laura Wilson, with music by Kessler Media Productions, published by Macmillan Audio in 2008. Brown Bear & Friends has 11 tracks and runs for 1 hour.
Tracks 1-4 are Gwyneth Paltrow's narration, tracks 5-8 feature the Spanish translation of the books read by Adriana Sananes, Bill Martin Jr. narrates Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See on track 9, and tracks 10-11 feature an interview with Eric Carle.
Academy Award-winning actress and mother Gwyneth Paltrow, narrated the four books mentioned above with motherly tenderness. Her interpretation of Brown Bear was more relaxed and bed-time like, making safe performance choices that honored the original tale. Paltrow took more artistic liberty in subsequent tracks better exhibiting her acting skills, yielding a more exotic, imaginative performance complete with creative musical accompaniment. Paltrow differentiated her characters well while maintaining a strong narrative. I listened to this CD with my three children and they all loved the reference to the Macaroni Penguin. Another observation was that the narration for Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? was more engaging because it was about hearing not seeing, something that makes a big difference when listening to an audio recording. Polar Bear, Polar Bear, in my opinion, was for that reason the most memorable story.
What a lovely surprise it was to have the stories translated into Spanish, featured as hidden tracks (5-8) on the disc, performed by voice actress Adriana Sananes. Such lively recordings! I appreciated how Adriana Sananes used her versatile voice to express a vibrant interpretation of books which translated well into Spanish. I found Sananes' elasticity, diction and mastery of her vocal range to be incomparable. Her characters were very interesting and I must say that I especially adored her Baby Bear voice. From the start, it was clear that Adriana was a trained voice actress and I'm pleased that the producer decided to go with someone of her caliber to introduce these books to the Spanish and bilingual Spanish / English listening audience.
For those interested, Teresa Mlawer provided the Spanish language translation for Bill Martin Jr.'s books. Mlawer is a widely respected translator and the president of Lectorum Publications, the largest U.S. distributor of children's books in Spanish.
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