Thursday, October 30, 2014

A TOS Review: Jim Hodges Productions {When London Burned}

Audio books are some of my favorite things on earth. I have used them myself for years. Cleaning house seems to go quickly when I have something intriguing to listen to. Music works for some people. I wind up bee-bopping instead of cleaning. True story. 

We do a lot of listening in the car, as well. Josiah and I spend a lot of time in the car going to swim team practice, PE classes and our weekly reading club.  I love that we can get to where we are going while listening to some enriching. 

I am always thrilled to add to my collection of Audio Books. This time around I had the opportunity to review When London Burned by G.A. Henty (as well as a study guide) from Jim Hodges Productions

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

If you are a history buff I am fairly certain you will enjoy G.A. Henty (1832 – 1902). I happen to adore his books. He was a military correspondent and author from Great Britain. He wrote 122 books...all historical fiction. His books are generally recommended for ages 10 and up. 

I have read many fictional accounts set around the events in When London Burned. Most of them were romantic in nature and not something Josiah would enjoy. G.A. Henty tends to major in swashbuckling adventure. His heroes are always true. This story is set in the 1600's. Many things were happening. Not only the Great Fire of London, but the Great Plague as well. 

Our hero of the story is Cyril Shenstone. His father, Sir Aubrey Shenstone fought with King Charles II to regain the throne from Oliver Cromwell. Sir Aubrey dies when Cyril is only 16. He leaves Cyril with no money or estate. 

All the Henty books I have read feature a young man who is of noble character. I can't tel you how refreshing it is to expose Josiah to someone whose values prompt him to consider someone other than himself. I don't have to worry about sassy talk and 'to big for your britches' attitudes. 

Cyril, the hero of this story, is no exception. He is compassionate, resourceful and forgiving. He faces obstacles that few boys of this day and age could imagine. A few things really stuck out for me. When Sir Arthur dies, Cyril is truly saddened. This might not seem like such a big deal (he was his father, after all), but Sir Arthur had been an absent father. He had pursued his own interests and left Cyril to fend for himself. He certainly didn't leave any way for Cyril to support himself. Instead of being bitter or unforgiving, Cyril looked past his father's faults and understood that his father did care for him. He took responsibility of his young life. 

When the Great Plague hit London it was a terrifying time. Those of noble birth fled to the countryside. Even many in the church shut themselves off and neglected their responsibility to care for sick and dying...for the widows and the orphans. 

Cyril went above and beyond. He helped those in need...putting himself in harms way. I have to share with you this quote from the book itself. This was from a minister preaching a sermon during this time. He was calling people to be compassionate.

"You are all soldiers of Christ," he said, "and now is an opportunity given to you to show that you are worthy soldiers. When the troops of a worldly monarch go into battle they do so with head erect, with proud and resolute bearing, with flashing eye, and with high courage, determined to bear aloft his banner and to crown it with victory, even though it cost them their lives. Such is the mien that soldiers of Christ should bear in the mortal strife now raging round us. Let them show the same fearlessness of death, the same high courage, the same unlimited confidence in their Leader. What matter if they die in His service? He has told them what their work should be. He has bidden them visit the sick and comfort the sorrowing. What if there be danger in the work? Did He shrink from the Cross which was to end His work of love, and is it for His followers to do so? 'Though you go down into the pit,' He has said, 'I am there also'; and with His companionship one must be craven indeed to tremble. This is a noble opportunity for holding high the banner of Christ. There is work to be done for all, and as the work is done, men should see by the calm courage, the cheerfulness, and the patience of those that do it, that they know that they are doing His work, and that they are contenketto leave the issue, whatever it be, in His hands."

I'm considering reading this every morning to Josiah. Too much? The story is filled with danger, scoundrels, heroes and adventure. All make for a great story for boys. 

The Audio book is well done. It is a little over 13 hours long. That's a lot of listening. I also ran into a little issue. I zoned the little bit of information that it came in a MP3 CD form. I stuck it in the CD player in my car on the way somewhere. I don't have to tell you that I went home with a story to my husband that my CD player didn't work anymore (along with my heating, air conditioning and  automatic locks). Should I be telling you this? 

Anyhoo. You will be happy to know that I was able to play it on our blueray player and my laptop. Just be prepared when you order your copy. I knew about the format, but had just forgotten. 

The story is recorded by Jim Hodges. He has a very pleasing voice. The audio is clear and easy to listen to. I have to tell you that I was amused when I read on his website that he has records all of his products at home and has occasionally recorded in the bathroom or laundry room. Try as I might, I didn't hear the washer running in our recording at all. 
We also received a Study Guide to accompany the audio book. It is long (64 or 65 pages long). I sent it to my Kindle and used it that way. It was easy enough to do. The study guide includes vocabulary words, discussion questions and writing projects. 
The questions were not just fluffy. They were meaty and something that gave us a lot to discuss. I did find a free online copy of the book itself. I used it as a reference for myself. Josiah is dyslexic so the audio book is an ideal way for him to learn. I find with the study guide I like having the book I can look at.
I need to mention that G.A. Henty is not just fluffy reading or listening. He wrote with real meat...he also wrote in the style of his time period. Modern readers who have not been exposed to this type of literature might find it challenging. I think we need more of this type of literature in our lives. I'm glad Jim Hodges Productions has provided us with a way to enjoy G.A. Henty any time. 
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