As many of you know, literature and living books form a big part of what we choose to use for homeschooling materials in our household. However, I’ve often found that when I try some of the more classic works of literature with my children, that the language and descriptions can often be complex enough to make it difficult for my young children to get through the stories. So, when I got a chance to review the newest release from Heirloom Audio Productions, and audiodrama adaptation of G.A. Henty’s Under Drake’s Flag, I was hopeful that the children might find this to be an easy and entertaining introduction to Henty’s works.
I received the two CD set of the audio drama with a small study guide and copy of Sir Francis Drake’s prayer inside. I also received access to a PDF copy of a longer study guide. Packages on their website with the physical CDs start at $29.95, but you can order the MP3 download for $20.00.
This drama is geared toward the whole family, but because of some scary and intense scenes, Heirloom Productions recommends it for ages six and up. We listened to these CDs both at home and in our car with the whole family, and while my husband and I, as well as our nine and seven year olds, were captivated, this story was really beyond my preschoolers’ attention spans.
This is a story of a boy named Ned. He’s a boy who is brave and a good swimmer, and as he saves another person in the water, his bravery is witnessed by the famous privateer Sir Francis Drake. Drake soon asks him to sail off with him on a grand adventure at sea where he befriends another young boy named Gerald and they set off for the adventure of a lifetime.
Ned and Gerald’s adventure starts off poorly as they decide to sleep on a barge that somehow comes loose from the ship and they are lost and adrift at sea for three days before Drake’s ship finds them again. After that, they are able to fit in well with the other men as they fight Spanish warships and invade Spanish controlled lands, looking for treasure to bring back to the queen. Despite committing many acts of piracy, Drake and his men hold themselves to a high moral standard, considering their work important to the crown. They refuse to attack men, women or children who do not fight against them.
As Ned sees Drake’s high moral example, he finds himself wanting to emulate Drake’s behavior and wanting to make himself a fitting servant for Christ. Through a ton of events and adventure that involves getting lost in battle, saving people from drowning, living with escaped slaves and fighting the Spanish, shipwreck, sharks and a meet-up with the Spanish Inquisition, Ned and Gerald manage to survive and thrive. When times are hard, we as readers often see them turn to Jesus and prayer. (I would love to tell you more of the details of the story, but I don’t want to give you too many spoilers!)
Eventually they meet up with Drake’s crew again and become part of the first English crew to circumnavigate the globe. Ned finds himself returning to Peru to ask a young Spanish lady who plays an important part of the story to be his bride.
We listened to this story several times. While we were in the middle of the review, we actually took a car trip where we listened to this story twice as we traveled. My seven year old daughter was especially taken with all the adventure and the hint of romance in the story. My nine year old son, who is a weak auditory learner (after all, he’s hearing impaired), found that he had a difficult time keeping up with the story and keeping the story straight until we’d listened 3 or 4 times. It’s fast moving and there is a lot of action!
I really enjoyed the story. There’s adventure, but there’s an underlying quality of holding yourself to a high moral standard and of making a difference in the world for Christ. The production quality of the audio theater makes you feel as if you are in the drama and the story itself is one of great and fast moving adventure. There are indeed some intense scenes and I ended up having to explain a lot about the Inquisition to the children as they understood more and more of what was going on in the Inquisition scenes.
I had originally planned on using this for unit study work, but ended up deciding to shelve that idea until the next time we’re studying that portion of history. Heirloom, however, did provide some resources that will make that easier when we eventually do use this CD as part of our history studies. I received from them a PDF download of a study guide to accompany Under Drake’s Flag.
The main body of the study guide is split into three sections:
- Listening Well–These are basic comprehension questions that cover your child’s understanding of the material that they have listened to
- Thinking Further–These are calls to meditate on the meaning of what happened and often requires your child to come up with their own ideas about things that happen in the story. There’s also occasional mapping questions and many of these could be expanded upon further to involve research and projects.
- Defining Words–Here’s an opportunity to pull more complicated words from the story and find out what they mean
In addition to these sections of study guide, there are also three themed Bible studies that could be pulled from the story and life of Sir Francis Drake. These are: (1) Godly Character, (2) True Manhood, and (3) Confessing Christ. There are also additional recommendations for learning more about Sir Francis Drake.
This is exactly the good, wholesome, high-quality type of materials that you want your children to be exposed to as they grow. I’m thankful to have been able to have reviewed this product and to be able to share both history and Henty in a way that has made it come alive for my children. In fact, they were both left hoping for more stories just like these!