Monday, September 8, 2014

Review: Under Drake’s Flag

Years ago the stereotype for a homeschooling family included a mom wearing a denim jumper and a family that read Little House books.  I guess we’ve become more sophisticated since I seldom see any denim at homeschool expos any more and the books in many of the booths have G.A. Henty as the author. My 11 year old son is close to  reaching the age I think he’ll have the maturity and reading skills to tackle one of the historical novels.  In the meantime though, I’ve been able to dangle a proverbial carrot in front of his nose with a new review product by Heirloom Audio Productions.  They’ve recently released a 2-CD set of their first Active Listening Audio Adventure entitled Under Drake's Flag.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably heard of an audio book—a recording of someone reading the text aloud which may or may not be abridged.  You’ve also heard of an audio drama (sometimes called radio theatre) where actors voice the dialogue and sound effects and background music accompany the story. But what the heck are Active Listening Audio Adventures?   According to Heirloom Audio, they are “fast-moving stories designed to keep the listener captivated…Quickly paced and Plot-rich…”  Having listened to the Cd’s with my son, I couldn’t have described them better myself.

My son listens to audiobooks as he winds down before bed.  This is NOT the time or place for Under Drake’s Flag.  We heard about sea battles, land battles, fighting sharks, surviving hurricanes, and ship wrecks…and that was just the first CD!   Instead my Schnickelfritz listened to the adventure as an after school treat while he built rollercoasters on his computer—in fact, he came up with a Drake’s Flag theme park while he listened (he had plenty of time since the drama was two hours long). Later, we took the CD’s on our road trip to see the grandparents.

The vendor recommends Under Drakes Flag for audiences ages six and up, but I would strongly caution you to listen to the whole production by yourself first before sharing it with anyone so young.  The second CD has a long segment where the protagonists are imprisoned and threatened with torture as part of the Spanish Inquisition.  The Inquisitor seems to almost take pleasure with the idea of breaking the body in order to save the soul.  My gentle-natured son only listened after I assured him the boys would be okay and since then he tends to skip over that track.  Along those same lines Catholics might be sensitive about their Church history as Spanish Catholics are made out to be the “bad guys” of the story.

Because Henty books are in the public domain, I downloaded the original book to my Kindle.  While I perused the novel (to see if my son could handle it), I noticed several changes had been made.  First, the adventures of four boys in the book have been assigned to only two in the audio version. The roles of other characters, like Donna Anna have been greatly expanded (to include a love story not in the book). Ned leaves his father behind in the book, in the drama he lives his mother behind and carries his fallen father’s sword (it actually becomes an important prop in the story). And finally, the book has several chapters devoted to Drake’s circumnavigation of the globe. The audio version covers the time on the Spanish Main and in South America while the rest of the voyage is briefly covered in the story’s wrap up.  I think we’re getting fairly used to adaptations (especially movies) making small  (and large) changes to books to make manageable scripts so none of this really bothered us, but if you have a real Henty fan they will notice the differences.  If you have an older student you could certainly discuss why they may have been necessary.

We were blown away by the production quality of Under Drake’s Flag.  One visit to the website explains why—several of the creative staff have worked on other audio drama series known and loved by homeschoolers.  AND we can’t wait for the next title to be released.  According to their Facebook page, they’re working on In Freedom’s Cause (William Wallace) and Billy Boyd from the Lord of the Rings trilogy will be one of the voice actors!

Although we listened just for fun, Heirloom Audio does have 30 page e-Study Guide for those who’d like to fit Drake’s Flag into more of a school curriculum mold.  After a brief introduction to Henty and Drake the rest of the pages provide vocabulary words, listening comprehension questions and questions to promote further thinking and discussion. 

The 2-CD set is available for $29.95.  The e-Study Guide is a free bonus.

Under Drake's Flag Reviews

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