Written by Francisca Goldsmith on Wednesday, June 21, 2017
Many listeners are familiar with Terry Pratchett’s long-running Discworld novels as well as his delightful storytelling at the borders of fantasy and comedy. THE WITCH’S VACUUM CLEANER AND OTHER STORIES collects for the first time his earliest literary tales, narrated here by Julian Rhind-Tutt for HarperAudio. These 14 funny, fantastic stories were written as part of Pratchett’s teenaged career in journalism and include appropriately teenaged themes including food fights, Tolkienesque little folk fond of practical joking, and bad guys who are as silly as they are daring. Even at 17, the author was creating characters and plots that would become developed in his later adult novels. Rhind-Tutt's delivery is just right for both the author's humor and the short story genre.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Stacy Schiff, in contrast, takes us into the grim history of 17th-century witch-hunting in THE WITCHES: SALEM 1692. Teens who know Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible can take a deeper dive here to come face to face with the realities on which that often-assigned work was built. Eliza Foss performs both the individuals affected by the witch-obsessed Puritans and the background explanations in tones that make complex passages accessible and engaging. Drawing connections between the witch trials and other events in America’s history may appeal to many teen listeners as a natural step.
We hope you find these two experiences with powerful voices engaging in themselves. We’re sure that listening to either will encourage further exploration of the themes and details they unfold, and we are glad to say that there are many audiobooks available that would make fine next choices for anyone eager to hear more about these echoes of the past. You can start with the listen-alikes posted on the download pages for the week or search for options in AudioFile's database of more than 35,000 reviews.