High School Literary Study Guide of The Scarlet Pimpernel {Review}

Take note: We received an electronic copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel pdf interactive study guide for high schoolers by Michael S. Gilleland and Eileen Cunningham in exchange for this fair and unbiased review. Thank you, Progeny Press, for this opportunity!

Don’t you love reading a book with your kids. I know I do. Now that I have teens (four teen girls, thank you), we often read books “together” without reading them aloud, although we’re still into read alouds. We don’t often do formal literature studies, because I had the joy sucked out of reading while attaining my five-year bachelor’s degree in English. When Progeny Press sent me the study guide for The Scarlet Pimpernel, I fought my instinct and assigned the book to my freshman, Elisabeth, and my seventh grader, Emily Rose, with the intention of reading the book simultaneously, but separately, and going through the study guide together. 

I sincerely enjoyed using the Progeny Press literature study guide for the Scarlet Pimpernel with these two lovelies!

Here’s the thing about youth–they can read a book without falling asleep. Both of them finished the entire book while I was still inching my way through chapter two. Sleep–you beautiful, cursed, necessity; how I love/hate you! I did finally finish the book at 2 a.m. one beautiful night.

Regardless of my slow pace through the book, the girls still were able to work through the study without my having finished the entire thing in advance. In fact, they didn’t need me to read it at all, but it’s so much more fun to read together than alone and to share quotes and frustrations and joys and laughs, isn’t it? Plus, I can add legitimately to the discussion if I’ve actually read the book. Duh.

About That Study…

The Scarlet Pimpernel study guide contains the following:

  • Instructor’s recommended usage guide with options–I love options!
  • Book synopsis, particularly awesome if you didn’t read the book–ack!
  • Author bio–fascinating! (I am totally over-using exclamation marks here–pet peeve.)
  • Historical background, which helps make this book an excellent history study, if only to add to a timeline or book of centuries.
  • Ideas for pre-reading activities…none of which we used, I have to confess, although we did use some as post-reading activities. We started reading the book before we received the study guide link.
  • Exercises divided into groups of five chapters, containing a fun variety of vocabulary activities (which my kids enjoyed), comprehension questions (which my kids didn’t like, since they already understood the book), analyses, and digging deeper activities (some of which they liked).
  • Overview, which can be used as a final review or exam.
  • Additional essays and projects
  • Answer key, in case you couldn’t stay awake long enough to read the book and therefore are struggling to contribute intelligently to the conversation.
  • More resources, including my personal favorite, further books to read–A Tale of Two Cities,


Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press Review}
What We Did…

We each read the book independently, but simultaneously. We bought the book on Kindle for free, and also bought a paperback copy for a little more than free. The girls (and I) prefer a real book to an imaginary one, but someone (me) had to read the digital version until everyone else was finished with the real thing.

We then dove into the study guide. I printed up the vocabulary sections for them to complete together or independently. I did not print up the comprehension or digging deeper questions. Comprehension questions are usually a waste of time on my kids, since they “get it,” so we breezed through these together. We didn’t skip them, because sometimes there are misunderstandings of the story line, so the questions do prove useful. We did, however, often have to be sneaky about our answers, because the discussion around this book made it so appealing to others in the family that they wanted to read it, too, and didn’t want spoilers. For digging deeper, we discussed the questions orally…preferably with a bowl of popcorn at hand.

I assigned them the final “exam” overview section to work on as they were working through the study guide instead of at the end. I’m not much of an examiner…except in math. I love giving math tests–bwaa haa haaa!

We dug a little deeper into the history of the time. We used the study guide, the intro in the book itself, and the internet. We also added the French Revolution and Orczy’s life to our timeline books and Orczy to our list of new favorite authors!

The Big Question…

Did this suck the joy out of the reading experience? Here are three brutally honest opinions on that matter:

Emily Rose (13): I already understood the book, so the comprehension questions were boring. It would be good if you didn’t understand it, but I understood it. [Teacher interjection: I knew this and we talk about books that we read anyway, so I breezed through these questions.]

Elisabeth (15): I thought the vocabulary was a good idea, but the comprehension questions were just kind of lame. If you didn’t understand the book in the first place, you wouldn’t understand it to answer the questions. [Teacher interjection: exact opposite answer of her sister. Hmmm.] Some of the discussion questions were interesting.

Christy (That’s me.): While I certainly wouldn’t assign a literary analysis to every book we read, I do believe it has its value. Used on, say, every fourth book assigned, a literary study guide of Progeny Press caliber is quite fun…at least for this book geek! (Oops, another exclamation point. Good grief.) I really enjoyed studying the book and time period with my two middle girls–they sometimes get lost in the school shuffle as we teach reading to littles and help olders navigate college at home. This opportunity provided scheduled time to share my love of literature with my two lovelies.

While my daughter’s reactions don’t sound very positive, they enjoyed most of our discussions. Just today I heard them chatting about the revelation of the Scarlet Pimpernel himself with another sister who just found out his identity, and {SPOILER ALERT} describing it as a “dramatic irony,” something they learned from the discussion questions. They’re “doing” the discussion questions without even realizing it.

I love that.

Additional Thoughts for My Fellow Roadschoolers

Printing vs. Interactive

While ideally you would normally print discussion questions and activity pages, those of us who live in about 25 square feet of space are a little printer-phobic, especially if you have to unbury the printer like an ancient Egyptian treasure every time you want to transfer something from the computer into the real world. That said, printing up this guide is not that big of a deal–do it all at once, throw it in the kids’ binders, and you’re done. Or you can do what we did, and just print parts of it.

If you really don’t want to do any printing, I have good news! because this is an interactive guide, the students can type the answers directly into the file, so there really is no need of printing at all! Of course, then there is need of a computer to do the work. Our computer is named The Behemoth for good reason, so lugging that baby out requires a forklift and some crow bars. (You could also load it onto a Kindle and have them write the answers on paper.) I gave the girls the option of using the interactive guide on the Behemoth, looking at the screen and writing on paper, or using printed sheets. They’ve done all three, but paper is the winner.

Internet Access

The download time was not an issue, so even if you’re stuck in that po-dunk campground with the nearly non-existent internet access because everyplace else was booked by weekend warriors, you should still be able to download the pdf guide with minimal angst. That’s good news.

Weight and Space

Many, if not all, of the books for which Progeny Press has published study guides are available on Kindle, so that is not a space issue. Of course, there’s nothing like the real thing–nothing like it. So grab the paperback and swap it out at an RV park when you’re finished…if you can bear to part with it after falling in love with the brave heroes of this treasure.


Progeny Press digital study guides are a really great option for portable literature studies without breaking your leaf springs.

A Little More About Progeny…

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Click on the banner below to learn what other homeschoolers have to say about a variety of literature studies for kiddos of all ages from Progeny Press.

Literature Study Guides from a Christian Perspective {Progeny Press Review}

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Analyzing Literature Without Losing the Love {A Review}

It is my legal duty to tell my readers that Memoria Press sent us the four student books and four teacher guides in their Fourth Grade Literature Guide Set to review, and I always perform my legal duty to the letter…except the time I showed up for jury duty with a new baby in my arms. All opinions here belong to me and my children–Memoria Press did not influence our decision.
Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

Most of my readers know that I was an English major in college. What you may not know is that by the time I was finished with college, I rarely read books anymore. The joy of reading had been stifled by too much literary dissection and over-the-top analysis. The natural process of thinking through an author’s work and making friends with writers and characters had been replaced with trying to figure out what a professor thought the author intended to say and making friends with a syllabus.

For that reason, the majority of what my children read is not laid out on the operation table to be cut into layer by layer. It is allowed to dance in their brains and on their tongues as they share their own interpretations without my attempting to get what want out of a reading.

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

That is why, despite my degree, this literature guide set from Memoria Press is, as far as I can recall, the first I have ever used with my kids. My opinion? I love it! My kids’ opinion? They love it! Let’s talk about why.

  1. The book selection is challenging, but not impossible by any means. The selection for fourth grade includes Homer Price by McCloskey (an old friend to most reading families or anyone who has fallen in love with the ducks in Boston), The Cricket in Times Square by Seldon, Dangerous Journey: The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress arranged by Hunkin, and Blue Fairy Book by Lang (the book we started with because we already had it on Kindle).
  2. Together, the series touches on different styles of literature. Some students may not taste certain genres unless required to, and might never otherwise learn that they love it.
  3. The discussion questions are not tedious or boring. We work through most of the questions out loud, and the kids are super enthusiastic. They do the quizzes on paper, and are just as enthused.
  4. The questions guide them to think through character traits, but so far have avoided being preachy.
  5. The Bible is brought into a few of the lessons, particularly in Dangerous Journey.
  6. The vocabulary words are fun for the kids, because, overall, they are useful words the kids are now noticing or using in their everyday lives. Also, the new words per lesson are minimal–not overwhelming by any means. There are, of course, a few wonky words they will never use again, such as Genus Mephitis from Homer Price, which doesn’t pop up over pizza too often.
  7. Character, plat, setting, an other literary devices are discussed in the guides here and there, more so in The Cricket in Times Square. The kids learn the literary words without being chased down by a literary bear with a chainsaw…if you catch my drift.
  8. The books in the series complement each other, but are separate studies, so parents can begin wherever they like.
  9. Not only is it good for children to read slightly above their grade levels, but to listen as well. Sometimes I read the story aloud; other times the kids read it to themselves. The program is flexible enough to be used however it works best for the family.
  10. The appendices in three of the four guides add just a little bit extra to make the book that much more interesting, but not so much that you start drooling while reading.
  11. The study guides introduce brief writing assignments–not torturous. My first grader loved them.
  12. It’s age and grade flexible. While this is a fourth grade set, most of my kids listened in and the fourth and first graders actively participated. The other grades look equally as flexible, because the literature selections are timeless.

Memoria Press Literature Guides Review

While I most definitely will continue giving my children a selection of books to read that will require no formal written or spoken analysis, and especially no worksheets, I will also continue to work through the rest of the Fourth Grade Literature Guide Set from Memoria Press. It’s that well done, and it doesn’t kill the joy.

Additional thoughts for my fellow roadschoolers:

With the availability of Kindles, you all know that our libraries can come with us–praise God for that! I’m old school and prefer a book in one hand and popcorn in the other, but I’m still ecstatic about how the Kindle has expanded the roadschoolers library. The Memoria Press Teacher’s Guide and Student’s Guide are both quite slim and will likewise not take up much room on the shelf. Three of the four sets can be stowed until needed while keeping the fourth at hand.

A Lit Program Even I Love

While it’s ideal for each child to have her own student book, if you have eight kids and a limited amount of space, you can adapt as we do and as described above.

The flexibility of the program has made it simple for us to have our literary discussions and sometimes readings in the van as we drive. The quizzes and lessons are short enough that they’re not going to get in the way of hiking through Bryce Canyon.

I see no reason why this one shouldn’t make the roadschool cut! 

Read what other reviewers have to say right here: