Adventure, Courage, and Loyalty on the High Seas with G.A. Henty

This is a non-biased review of The Dragon and the Raven, a dramatic audio production of G.A. Henty’s book of the same title, created by Heirloom Audio Productions. All opinions are my own and those of my children. There was no exchange of cookies, pie, or money to alter our opinions.

Ever since we listened to a Librivox recording of G.A. Henty’s The Cat of Bubastes over a decade ago, read in a drone voice that we grew strangely fond of, we have been huge Henty fans. A Henty novel is an education in itself–language, history, geography, human nature, character. It’s a treasure trove of Christian virtue wrapped in adventure and courage and tied with a bow of literary prowess.

While nobody can really improve on Henty, one can tie it with a different bow, so to speak. And that’s exactly what Heirloom Audio Productions has done with their dramatic reproduction of Henty’s The Dragon and the Raven.

The Dragon and the Raven {Heirloom Audio Productions Review}

What’s it like?

Using famous voices that you’ll recognize (Bilbo Baggins, anyone?) and stirring music by John Campbell that makes it hard to press pause, Heirloom Audio Productions has released a highly professional two-and-a-half-hour adventure that brings courageous Christian heroes to life.

Set during the time of King Alfred the Great, this story of loyalty and perseverance follows two boys as they follow the young Alfred as he follows his Christian virtues during the Danish attacks on England. (That’s a lot of following.) That’s all I’m telling you, because I was once called a very bad name in college for accidentally giving away part of a plot. I still have the scars. If you want to know more, however, you should watch this video. You should watch it anyway, because it’s good.

We have little patience with productions that aren’t well done. This is well done! The Henty story is spell-binding. The Christian virtues are an example I’m proud to have my children emulate. The voices and music are spectacular. The story is timeless.

Is it True to the Book?

If you’re like us, this matters…probably more than it should matter. Geek alert! The adventure is primarily true to Henty’s original novel. There is a slight shift in the main characters, however, with a previously non-existent lad stepping in and a previous main character being offed…literally.

The story is still excellent, and the variation allows for some quality discussion and compare and contrast practice…which we never call “compare and contrast,” because that takes the fun out of it.

What does it come with?

There are downloadable bonus items included with the CD. This includes the original book newly re-illustrated (which our 10-year-old boy can’t wait to dive into), the score, printable posters, making of video, and, my personal favorite, a 48-page study guide. Stick with me a minute while I talk about the study guide, because it really adds to the drama.

The downloadable guide breaks the story up into bites around 3-5 minutes long. Each section of the guide contains the following:

  • Comprehension questions geared toward helping the younger students better understand what they heard. These were particularly helpful for the 10 and under crowd who didn’t quite catch everything.
  • Digging deeper questions, including some research questions. These added depth for the older kids (like me–Mama), as well as painted a picture for the younglings.
  • Vocabulary
  • Special activities, including a recipe for Alfred Cakes, which, as you know, is right up my alley
  • Information about Henty and Alfred the Great

While we started out pausing the audio to focus on the study guide, truth be told we sometimes were so immersed in the saga that we couldn’t press pause. Seriously, it was paralyzing. Wink wink. Still, the study guide has proven very valuable and makes this Henty treasure a solid historical, character, and language study. 

Who’s it for?

My entire family listened together (although Daddy was, admittedly, in and out and would show up and say, “Is this Tolkien?” every single time). Here they are checking out the name of one of the characters as written on the disc case, so we could spell it right for our “character tree” (like a family tree, but you don’t have to be related…although you do have to be in the same book.

Heirloom Audio Production of The Dragon and the Raven by G.A. Henty

The other side of the room:

Living the Adventure with Heirloom Audio Productions' Newest Hit from G. A. Henty, The Dragon and the Raven

The four-year-old there enjoyed it, but she wouldn’t have gotten the gist of the stories without the discussion; mostly she waited to find out if there was a princess in it…which there was…sort of. The seven- and ten-year-olds benefited immensely from the comprehension discussions. The thinking questions benefited everyone, including Mama, who learned more about the Danish attacks on Wessex than most Americans, I’m guessing.

Additional Thoughts for My Fellow Roadschoolers:

Because everything is available as a download, this is absolutely ideal for roadschoolers. Download when you have a good (preferably free) internet connection, and you’re all set for the entire study. If you (unlike us) have the ability to listen to CDs or MP4s while driving, you can do this in the van. (Our Bagabus lost its CD player the first week out over four years ago. Major boo. Major sore throat for this mama.)

Seriously, I see no drawbacks using this for your roadschooling family. And when they fall so immensely in love with Henty that they want more than the four currently available, download the books for free from Amazon. Just do it!

If the other dramas in the Heirloom Audio Productions’ Henty adventures are as spell-binding and character-building as The Dragon and the Raven, I can’t recommend them enough! Toss one or two in an Easter basket or slip one on the table for a graduation gift. It’s almost as good as chocolate. Dare I say better?

To find out what other homeschoolers think, go here:

The Dragon and the Raven {Heirloom Audio Productions Review}
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