Wednesday, October 29, 2014

REVIEW: When London Burned Audiobook

I love audio books. I discovered them years ago for myself, as something to do while working in the kitchen. I can't skip any words - no skimming when someone else does the reading. When I started spending a lot of time in the car with my children, audio books made a nice change from listening to the Wiggles or Elmo. We have listened to lots of great stories together. It's also been a nice option on long road trips. I was recently given the opportunity through the Schoolhouse Crew to review When London Burned by G.A. Henty as an audiobook, with the accompanying study guide, from Jim Hodges Productions.

G.A. Henty was a military correspondent and prolific British author who lived in the mid to late 1800's. He wrote 122 books of historical fiction about both British and American historical events. His storytelling began with telling stories to his four children after dinner. His stories are historically accurate, and exemplify noble character. His books are recommended for ages 10 and up.

When London Burned was set in London in the 1600's, around the time of the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London. We are studying the Renaissance and Reformation in history this year, so it was a great book for us. The story is about Cyril Shenstone, son of Sir Aubrey Shenstone, a knight who fought with King Charles II to help him regain his throne from Oliver Cromwell. Sir Aubrey dies when Cyril is only 15, leaving him to find his way in the world on his own with no money and no estate, Sir Aubrey having sold it to help finance the King's campaign. The story tells of Cyril's adventures in London, and he is portrayed as a young man of great faith and character. When the Plague hits London, for example, rather than hiding in his house, he goes out to see how he can be helpful to those who are afflicted. Although I occasionally thought Cyril was a bit too good to be true, one part of the book affected me particularly. Cyril's pastor preached about showing compassion to those afflicted with the plague, which was in sharp contrast to most other preachers of that time, who said the plague had come down on them in judgement for sin. Cyril took those words to heart, and rather than hiding in his house to try to avoid illness, he went out to see how he could be of helpful. He ended up working as an assistant to a doctor, who appreciated Cyril's level head and willingness to work.

Each Jim Hodges audio book comes as an MP3 CD, which means it will not play in a standard CD player. You could rip the CD onto your computer, though, and put the audio book onto an MP3 device. The books are broken out into chapters on the CD, which makes it easy to find your place if you schedule your listening time.

When London Burned is a long book - the total listening time is 13 hours and 21 minutes. I have to be honest: my kids and I kept wondering when London was actually going to burn, and we were glad when we finally got to the point of the story. I had not read anything by Henty before, and I have heard people say he wrote excellent historical fiction, and other people have said his books were a bit dry. I probably fall in the "bit dry" camp. I'm not sure I would have made it through this book without the audio. Mr. Hodges does a good job differentiating voices between characters, and pronounces things clearly. His narrating style is a little dry, perhaps, but overall it was a good listening experience.

When London Burned Study Guide
Because we listened to the book in the car, we weren't able to utilize the study guide much. The best thing about tit, for me, was the vocabulary list provided for each chapter. That was great, because there are a lot of nautical terms and I didn't know very many of them! If I were going to present this book to my children, we would definitely use the study guide to go over vocabulary. There are some excellent questions in there, which ask more than just recalling details from the book. We were encouraged to learn more about Puritanism and Oliver Cromwell, find out where the original site of St. Alphage's Church was, and compare the French baton to the English singlestick, just to name a few of the topics. The study guide encourages further research and fleshes out this period in history.

I enjoyed listening to this audio book. It was a good first experience with G.A. Henty's writing. If we

When London Burned is available from Jim Hodges Productions for $24.99 for the MP3 CD, or as a digitla download for $18.00. The study guide is also available as a PDF download for $12.00.

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