Over our homeschooling years, my children and I haven't had much success with audio books, but when I saw Under Drake's Flag up for review from Heirloom Audio Productions, I thought it looked promising. The stunning graphics, positive reviews, cast of at least 20 voice talents, and teaser trailer hooked me from the start. Plus, I needed something to fill in our history gap until our curriculum is finally ready later this month.
Did Under Drake's Flag meet my expectations? Well, continue reading my review to find out!
Under Drake's Flag is a two-hour audio drama based on the book, Under Drake's Flag by G.A. Henty and is best suited for adults and children ages 6 and up. It's a coming of age story that combines fiction with historical events. Fictional characters, Ned Hawkshaw and his friend, Gerald, must write a report on the historical figure, Sir Francis Drake, an English explorer who helped conquer the Spanish Armada. They're not exactly thrilled about it, though. Mr. George (G. A. Henty) overhears their conversation and begins to tell them a story in which they shine as heroes. (George Henty was a real adventurist and storyteller who loved to not only write about history but live it. He is known for writing over 120 books that became fundamental reading in English schools.)
After Ned performs a daring rescue, Drake promises Ned that he can become part of his crew. Drake's mission has something to do with the Spanish Inquisition. Ned's mother is reluctant to let him go but finally relents and gives her blessing by giving him his father's dagger. It isn't long before Ned finds himself aboard Drake's ship.
Somehow Ned's friend, Gerald, is already aboard the ship, but I missed how he ended up there. Anyway, he remains Ned's trusty sidekick throughout the journey. Their adventure begins with Ned rescuing a Spanish girl from a shark attack. Drake frees the girl, and shortly after that, a violent storm causes a shipwreck. Ned and Gerald survive and find themselves in Spain, however, they are treated well by Don Sagasta, due to Ned saving his daughter, Donna Anna, from sharks.
Ned and Gerald join up with a band of Africans and must battle Spaniards in order to keep from being captured by them. During this time, Donna Anna finds the young men and tells them that her father was killed by troops because he sympathized with the English and Africans. While continuing their conquest to put an end to the Spaniard's cruelty, they hope to meet up with Drake's ship which has been spotted.
Later, they say goodbye to Donna Anna and make their way to the ocean by living off the land. When they encounter some Spanish men, they pretend to be Spanish to keep from being captured. Ned and Gerald play a part in another rescue, this time involving a Spanish captain and his men. They end up having to confess to the governor that they are English, but the governor promises to help keep them safe. Upon this revelation, the governor and Ned and Gerald are taken to Lima to face the Grand Inquisitor. Even though they are thrown in the dungeon and threatened with torture, they refuse to recant their faith.
Of course, they are rescued by none other than Donna Anna. She has horses and a boat waiting that will hopefully lead them to Drake. They finally reunite with Drake who has made it through the straits of Magellan on his ship, The Golden Hinde. While they convince Drake not to harm the town of Lima, Drake does order his men to rescue the prisoners of the Inquisition and to burn down the prison.
Ned and Gerald say goodbye to Donna Anna once more, and they return to England. Drake becomes the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe, and he is knighted by the queen upon his return. Ned and Gerald are also honored and receive gifts. Ned and Gerald eventually get their own ships, and Ned asks for Donna Anna's hand in marriage.
At the close, the adventure returns to the opening scene where Mr. George is telling the story to the boys.
** I'll cut to the chase - overall, my kids and I didn't really like it. A scene near the beginning set the tone for the rest of the story which honestly made my kids dread the time when we'd listen to it every morning. It took us about 2 weeks to get through it because 20 minutes or so was about all they could handle at one time, and they don't usually have short attention spans. They, especially my oldest, weren't happy that I was making them finish it.
So, the scene I am talking about that set the tone for the rest of the story was the shark scene, I believe. We had a hard time hearing and understanding the narrator over all the background-shark-attack noise. There were other times during the story that we had this same problem. I often thought, I wish I could see what was going on and see who's talking. For the first part of the story, we couldn't always tell if it was Ned or George speaking. Also, the story moved along pretty fast, and we struggled with keeping up with all of the characters and what was going on. If I hadn't have taken notes while listening, we wouldn't have been able to answer many of the questions in the study guide.
If you are a natural audio learner, you may not have the same experience that we did. I am sure fire convinced after this, though, that we are NOT audio learners. At least not when it's audio all by itself.
** Now, even though we struggled with listening to Under Drake's Flag, there are quite a few positives about the overall production. It's an adventurous tale that will appeal to a lot of kids. The cast of voice talents show enthusiasm and passion for the characters they represent. Ned, George, and Sir Francis Drake model godly character traits and make honorable heroes.
I think we would have had greater success with the story if we could have followed along with a script or read it in black and white. Also, I would personally want to go back and study with my kids all about Sir Francis Drake and the Spanish Inquisition before listening to the audio. That way they would have a better understanding (at least my younger children) of the time period and what was going on.
The Study Guide
Included in the pocket of the fold-out CD case is an abridged study guide to go along with the story. (The complete study guide can be downloaded after you purchase the CD set.) Both study guides follow the same format and consist of three key sections: Listening Well, Thinking Further, and Defining Words. Also included is the heartfelt Prayer of Sir Francis Drake, 1577.
Listening Well covers comprehension questions from the story. Thinking Further requires listeners to dig deeper. Your child may need to do further research on a certain topic pertaining to the story or make determinations about characters based on character's actions etc.. Defining Words lists vocabulary words that your child may need to look up to help him understand the story.
There is also a Bible Studies section at the end of the study guide. Bible Study topics relate to elements discussed in the story: 1.) Godly Character, 2.) True Manhood, 3.) Confessing Christ.
The complete, downloadable, 15-page study guide is different in that it offers more opportunities for learning in each section. There are more questions in Listening Well, more vocabulary words in Defining Words, more further research ideas in Thinking Further, and more Bible verses to look up in the Bible Studies section. Also, at the end there is a list of books if you want to learn more about Sir Francis Drake.
** The study guide is a nice addition, but because we had a difficult time following the story and picking up on names of minor characters and places, we couldn't always answer all of the questions. I didn't put a whole lot of emphasis on the study guide, but when I did use it, I used the abridged version. I did enjoy reading The Prayer of Sir Francis Drake, though. Beautiful and convicting.
You have 4 options from which to choose when purchasing Under Drake's Flag:
- Option 1: Download - For $20.00 you receive an instant access MP3 download version plus two free bonuses: (1) The complete Under Drake's Flag eStudy Guide and Discussion Starter (2) A printable copy of Drake's Prayer
- Option 2: 2 CD set - For $29.95 plus $6.95 shipping and handling you receive the CD's, the two bonuses mentioned above plus two more bonuses: (1) Instant access MP3 download version of the story (2) MP3 download of the soundtrack produced by Emmy-winning composer John Campbell
- Option 3: The Family Four Pack - For $99.97 plus $9.95 shipping and handling, you receive 4 CD sets, all of the bonuses mentioned above (except for the MP3 download version of the story), plus 5 more bonuses: (1) Free E-Book copy of Bill Heid's book "Echoes Of The Dragon's Drums" (2) G.A. Henty's original Under Drake's Flag E-Book (3) 2-lecture MP3 set titled, "The Real Sir Francis Drake." (4) A 30-minute video documentary download titled, "Behind The Scenes of Under Drake's Flag" (5) Free unlimited access to the Under Drake's Flag Membership Website.
- Option 4: The Group 10-Pack - For $199.97 you receive 10 CD sets plus all of the bonuses which are valued at over $200.
You can connect with Heirloom Audio Productions on Facebook.