Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Dragon and the Raven - A Schoolhouse Crew Review

Review Crew
The Schoolhouse Review Crew was recently given the opportunity to review a new audio production for Heirloom Audio Productions.
The product is their newest audio drama, The Dragon and the Raven, a dramatization of the book by G.A. Henty by the same name.

I asked begged for this review because my whole family has enjoyed every one of the audio dramas Heirloom has produced thus far. You can read my reviews: Under Drake's Flag; In Freedom's Cause; and With Lee in Virginia. My adult daughter in Virginia even waits anxiously for us to finish with these products and pass them along to her for her to enjoy on her long drives to and from work!

The package we received from Heirloom contained a 2-CD package with a beautiful activity booklet inside. There was also a letter enclosed, from The Dragon and the Raven's Associate Producer, Aaron Fullan, divulging to us our secret information to log in to get our product bonuses (to be described below).

 The Dragon and the Raven audio drama is suitable for ages 6 to adult.

The package from Heirloom arrived at a perfect time for us. For over two years, my son and I have been
making a monthly "pilgrimage" (sometimes even more often) to Baltimore, MD for his orthodontics treatment at the University of MD, Baltimore Dental School. The trip takes 60-90 minutes each way (usually 90 minutes). The Dragon and the Raven is 2-1/2 hours worth of non-stopping action and adventure. Our February travel to the orthodontist was very pleasant, indeed!
I knew this adventure was a winner with my son. Nothing distracted him from listening to the story. The only times he talked during the story were times he asked questions like, "Is this a true story?" and "When did this take place?"
The CD set came with a beautifully illustrated study guide inside the CD case, so it's about 4.5-5" square. It contains a section that tells you about how to use the study guide, followed by a section by section breakout of the drama, with exercises in "Listening Well", "Thinking Further" and "Defining Words". The CD case has a slot in the center section that this guide fits into.

In addition, as I mentioned above, we received a letter that revealed to us our sign-in User ID and Password to access the bonus materials. The bonus materials included were:
  • The Dragon and the Raven downloadable mp3 set;
  • The Dragon and the Raven ebook original with updated graphics;
  • The Dragon and the Raven official mp3 soundtrack containing original score by Emmy-winning composers;
  • printable cast poster;
  • Study Guide for The Dragon and the Raven in PDF format (to be discussed further below);
  • inspirational verse poster to print out;
  • Live the Adventure with invitation to subscribe to monthly email newsletter with link to "Live the Adventure" website;
  • link to downloadable mp4 50-minute video documentary with the cast, crew and actors in the studio.
That's a lot of bonus materials!
Let me tell you about the downloadable Study Guide for The Dragon and the Raven! This study guide is 49 pages long. It contains a page giving credits to the cast and crew. This is followed by pages that break the listening down into segments to discuss: Introduction, Our Story Begins, Father Returns, Tales of the Danes, Swamp Hut Farewell, Meeting Harold, The Oath Ring, ...I can't list them all! It looks like at least 40 sections! I haven't compared to the book PDF -- maybe these titles are the chapters from the written book (or similar to the book). I know the content of the CDs must be reduced from the actual book or the adventure would take like six hours! 
The Study Guide has discussion questions, but is also an activity guide with things in it like "Make Alfred Cakes". The study of The Dragon and the Raven is followed by three Bible study pages to help the student apply the story to his own life. This is followed by a brief history of England and a page about Alfred specifically. I love learning about Alfred. I am descended from natives of Great Britain and natives of Finland and natives of Norway, and I have found a family member in my family trees from both the Finnish and the British. My son and I read about Alfred the Great many years ago, but he did not remember. I loved the story about Alfred burning the cakes, and I plan to try the recipe for Alfred's Cakes in the Study Guide.
The Study Guide is beautiful, as are all the products included in this package. In my reviews I like to mention if I can think of a way to improve the product. This product is completely wonderful just as it is! That said, and I hate to say it, there is one item I could suggest the creators add to their bonuses. I don't know how difficult vs. easy this would be, but I would love it if the Study Guide came with a second option of printing it out in just black and white text only. I prefer printed study guides, but I never print out the PDF study guides by Heirloom. They contain so much color that I don't want to print them out on my home computer, and I don't want to pay the expense to print them out at a store and having them bound. I work with them off one of my devices, but would love to be able to print out selected text with white background. Just my two cents, and the only way I could see to suggest anything that might improve this wonderful product.
Heirloom is already working on their next production, an audio drama of G.A. Henty's book  The Cat of Bubastes. I hope I get to review that, too! You can stay abreast of Heirloom Audio Productions plans and new releases by following them on Facebook. You can also find them on Twitter @HeirloomStories and read their posts on Google+. I thought I was done -- I'm not! There is also a Facebook page for The Dragon and the Raven, and another one for The Extraordinary Adventures of GA Henty. Now I'm done.
I can't say enough good things about the audio dramas by Heirloom Audio Productions. My family and I love them. I love the Dragon and the Raven. I read the novel about 5-10 years ago -- on my own, not out loud to anyone, just on my own. I love GA Henty, and I love that Heirloom is dramatizing his history stories. I think you will like them too!

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1 comment :

  1. These audio dramas are the best! They keep us thoroughly entertained in the car.