Tuesday, March 1, 2016

{Review} The Dragon and the Raven (Audio Drama)

Medieval England is one of our favorite places and time to study in history. Although it is not our focus this school year, we find ourselves being drawn back through smaller studies we missed a year ago. One of our favorite ways to experience history, is through the audio dramas of Heirloom Audio Productions. Their newest recording of The Dragon and the Raven was an immediate hit with Amber.

Review of the exciting audio drama The Dragon and the Raven.

We eagerly accepted the chance to review The Dragon and the Raven audio drama, and along with the double CD set, we received access to downloadable bonus features which included the ever helpful study guide PDF and MP3 versions of the production.

For those unfamiliar with Heirloom Audio Productions, they are the company that brings to life through audio theater the various works of G.A. Henty, including In Freedom's Cause and With Lee in Virginia.  G.A. Henty was a popular historical author in the late 19th century who wrote adventures that are still relevant today. The details of the historical accounts are surprisingly accurate while providing a wealth of information about the events unfolding in the stories. The Dragon and the Raven is definitely a child friendly story, but kids under 6 years of age might have difficulty following along and I can attest that even adults find the recordings engaging.

Review of the exciting audio drama The Dragon and the Raven.

The Dragon and the Raven is the story of Alfred the Great, King of Wessex. Although Alfred is known mostly for his defense of England against the Danes and eventual treaty with the Danes, he was, more importantly, a man of deep Christian faith who based his restructuring of English laws on the Bible. Alfred also believed strongly in literacy and had the Bible translated into the Anglo-Saxon language. Thisstory is told through the eyes of a young Saxon, named Edmund, who is in the service of Alfred. While there are plenty of battle details and accounts of life during the time, the story also focuses on Alfred's faith.

The unique audio theater used by Heirloom Audio Productions draws the listener into the time period and story with ease through sound effects and well voiced characters. In fact many of the voices are those you may recognize, like John Rhys-Davies, Brian Blessed, and Sylvester McCoy.  As usual, Amber couldn't wait to begin The Dragon and the Raven, but since we incorporate the provided study guide into our listening lessons she was forced to delay until I loaded both the MP3 files and the study guide PDF on her iPad. 

Review of the exciting audio drama The Dragon and the Raven.

The study guide comes as a PDF file for the ultimate in portability and ease of use. It includes background on Alfred the Great, three Bible studies (God's Law and the Nations, Love Your Enemy, & Literacy), as well as chapter by chapter lessons.  Each chapter of the study guide contains two or three of the following features:

  • Listening Well - Questions over the details of the story in this chapter.
  • Thinking Further - Questions that require the student to dig deeper into the mind of the characters, or to research a little about the time.
  • Defining Words - Possibly new or difficult words used in the chapter.
Every chapter of the study guide is marked with both the beginning and ending time stamp for the MP3 along with the disc and track number that correlate to the chapter to help when following along or reviewing.

Review of the exciting audio drama The Dragon and the Raven.

How We Use Audio Dramas
Amber is a visual learner, however her dysauotnomia often gets in the way when she tries to focus on detailed reading. On those days, audio or video learning works best, so we saved The Dragon and the Raven for one such day. Yet as an eighth grader, I prefer her to do a little more work than just listening to the tracks. Instead, I asked Amber to keep her iPad open to the study guide throughout her listening and actively follow along with both the Listening Well and Thinking Further questions. I do assume if there are unknown words, she will look them up or ask for clarification, so she is not required to work through the Defining words sections any longer.

Normally, we listen together or at least I am able to hear from another room while Amber listens. This particular time, Amber requested to use her earbuds because it makes the experience more personal and allows for fewer distractions. Although The Dragon and the Raven was not my assignment, I felt I was missing out on a fun story and ended up listening to the MP3 files through my computer while planning school lessons. It definitely made it easier for discussion later to have listened myself.

Review of the exciting audio drama The Dragon and the Raven.
She finished the entire adventure in one afternoon!
Amber managed to finish the two and one half hours of the audio drama in one sitting. She was that engrossed in the adventure. Afterwards, she gave me a quick run down of the story plot and hit a few highlights of the Thinking Further questions along with adding in a few questions of her own.

The Dragon and the Raven is an engaging historical drama that brings to life the period of King Alfred while keeping the listener entertained. Heirloom Audio Productions has provided us with another fantastic resource and we can't wait for the next installment in The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty to be produced.

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Visit other members of the Review Crew to read their experiences with The Dragon and the Raven!

The Dragon and the Raven {Heirloom Audio Productions Review}

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  1. This is a great review! I can tell you really enjoyed it. We found Henty quite hard to read when we read a few during our study of the middle ages. I think we would enjoy the audio version much more.

    1. We didn't get to any Henty books prior to finding the audio dramas, but I can see exactly what you mean from looking through the ebooks. These recordings make the books so much more assessable.

  2. Oh, I like the idea of having the study guide on a tablet to view *while* listening to the story!