Everybody loves a good story and my family is no exception, so when we had an opportunity to review the audio drama Under Drake's Flag by Heirloom Audio Productions we jumped on it. Under Drake's Flag is 2 hours of exciting storytelling based on a G.A Henty novel. It manages to captivate your imagination and inspire you to become a person of character. With the CD set, you get 2 CDs and a Study Guide. We also received a PDF download for a longer Study Guide.
Who is G.A Henty? G.A. Henty was a adventurer from the 1800's who lived for God. As a war correspondent, he travelled all over the world actually experiencing the kinds of adventures found in the 122 children's books he wrote. They say you should write what you know. Henty knew children, knew history and knew adventure. Through his books, we get a taste of what it would have been like to live during some of the most amazing historical times. I have often used his books alongside our history curriculum to bring our lessons to life.
Who is Sir Francis Drake? Sir Francis Drake was an English sea captain in the 1500's and the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. Not only was he a strong leader to his men on sea and in battles, he was also an example of Christian conduct and honor. He sailed during the time of the Spanish Armada and the Spanish Inquisition, and both play into the storyline of Under Drake's Flag.
I have read G.A. Henty books aloud to my kids before, but no amount of worked-up mama-drama could compare to the professional quality of this audio drama. The Executive Producer is Bill Heid. The producer, John Fornof, is the Writer/Producer of Lamplighter Theatre and was the former Writer/Director of Adventures in Odyssey. With professional voice actors, music and sound effects, you really feel like you are part of the action. My kids want more Heirloom Audio!
The Study Guide has three main sections for each chapter. Listening Well asks questions to see what your child remembers of what he heard. Thinking Further challenges your child to think more deeply about the story and gain a greater understanding of the "why" behind the character's actions. Defining Words gives your child an opportunity to expand his vocabulary. At the end of the study guide are three Bible studies to help your child grow in Godly character. Finally, there is a resource section if you want to learn more.
At our house, we like to have quiet hands-on activities (like art projects, knitting, zome-tools, thinking putty, etc) while I read aloud to my kids. It keeps their hands busy and their ears open. (And no, kids don't ever grow out of being read to, in our opinion. Even my teens love to settle in for a good story. I don't read my teens picture books anymore, of course. I choose books that will captivate their attention and leave them wishing I would read "just one more chapter". But I digress.) Since Heirloom Audio was doing the reading for me, I settled in while my kids got something to work on. Then I did the incredibly difficult task of popping the first CD into my computer. (These CDs will work on any device that will play a CD, though. You don't need a computer. Just so you know...)
I had planned on taking an intermission break (a.k.a. "kids'-squirm-break") between CD 1 and CD 2, but my kids wanted to get right back to the story -- no squirm break necessary. If you have boys, it is pretty much guaranteed that they will like this story. It is full of adventure: shark attacks, sea battles, storms, shipwrecks, land battles and more. But more than that, it is full of courage, character and honor -- of making the right decision, even when it is the more difficult decision. We need more of that kind of spirit in our society.
G.A. Henty wrote in the 1800's under a very different moral standard than the one our society holds today. As such, you won't find a lot of politically correct sentiment here. You will find that those who do evil are considered the enemy and those who do good are considered a friend, regardless of their nationality or the color of their skin. As a book written by a Christian author, you can expect that "good" is defined by the Christian faith, rather than the world's standard or another religion. As I said earlier, this book is set during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. The Spanish were at war with England at that time and the Spanish Inquisition (forgive me for making a complex time in history overly simplistic here) involved demanding that people accept the Catholic faith or die a brutal death, so the Catholic Spanish are the bad guys in this audio drama. You need to be aware of that -- especially if you happen to be from Spain...or Catholic...or both... But this doesn't lump everyone into a heap and doom them all to badness. Some Spaniards are considered the enemy and others are treated as friends based on their beliefs and actions.
That being said, this is the story of a boy becoming a man -- not in the Hollywood sense, but by learning to lay down his life repeatedly for others, by training his character and by facing his fears. Under the guidance of Captain Drake, Ned grows into a man that others can look to and rely on during some incredibly difficult times. It is a worthy goal that any child should have. In my opinion, it is people like Ned who should be the heroes our children want to emulate, not some under-dressed pop-star. Just saying...
My kids thoroughly enjoyed Under Drake's Flag. My 16 yr. old daughter said it was, "Awesome! Like watching a movie, only hearing it." And both my sons keep asking if they are making more Henty audio dramas. I'm with them. It was as professionally done as a good movie, and like my sons, I really hope they make more.
This set is geared for kids ages 6-Adult. Our youngest is 4, so she didn't understand a lot of what was happening in the story. She just played while the rest of us listened (ages 10, 14, 16 and I'm not telling my age). If you would like to purchase your own copy of Under Drake's Flag, it currently sells for $29.95 at Heirloom Audio Productions. Prepare to be swept away with Ned on Captain Drake's ship!
Update: I just received an email from Aaron Fullan, the Assistant Producer at Heirloom Audio Productions and guess what. They are about to release a new audio drama sometime this fall (November is the projected date -- just in time for Christmas!) It's called In Freedom's Cause and is the story of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. I can hardly wait! Oh, I mean my kids can hardly wait. You can find out more here: Website: www.InFreedomsCause.com