As many of you know by now, audio books (especially radio theatre, audio adventures, and audio dramas) are a big part of my family's homeschool and casual routine. We had the pleasure of being introduced to Heirloom Audio Productions for the first time a few months ago and were subsequently quite impressed, so of course we couldn't wait to listen to and review their recent addition, "Beric the Briton" as well! When the CD set arrived in the mail, we opened it and started listening that same day!
About Beric the Briton
Like other offerings from Heirloom Audio Productions, Beric the Briton is a Christian historical fiction audio drama based on the book by author G.A. Henty. It tells the personal story of Beric's interactions and experiences with the Romans of his time. Listeners follow a part of his life, starting with him as a member of his pagan tribe, then on to becoming a young chief, an advisor, a warrior, a prisoner, a gladiator, a personal guard, and eventually a believer and follower of "Christus". He displays his strength of character during many challenges, successes, setbacks, failures, and victories throughout his journey.
This is not simply a story being read by a single narrator! Instead, it is an immersive experience with professional scale music, high quality sound effects, and a variety of different characters. The skilled vocal cast consists of many people, including well-known voices and stars such as Brian Blessed, Brian Cox, Tom Baker, Honeysuckle Weeks, Cathy Sara, and John Rhys-Davies. The original music for this drama was composed by the talented John Campbell.
We received the 2-disk CD set of Beric the Briton along with a number of nice digital bonuses. Our favorite was the 50-page eStudy Guide and Discussion Starter that is meant to help expand upon and critically think about the story itself! Other bonuses included access to the Live the Adventure Letter e-newsletter, an interesting behind-the-scenes video, the downloadable MP3 story and soundtrack, an e-book that can be used to follow along as you listen, and a couple of printable posters - one of which has a wonderfully illustrated inspirational quote by Julius, a Roman from the story, who passionately declared, "I will gladly die for Him who died for me."
We played the CDs in the van on our way to various activities and errands. I find car travel to be the best time to capture the girls' full attention and it makes the trip go by faster for all of us when we have a good story to listen to along the way. Then again, it also means that we lament the shortness of the trip when we arrive at our destination in the middle of an exciting moment in the story!
Both my girls (ages 6 & 9) enjoyed this audio drama from the start, as did I! My youngest needed some help understanding certain words, parts, or ideas along the way, but she remembered a surprising amount later on as well. Big Sis (my 9 year old) liked following along with the story by reading the ebook as well, making it easier for her to keep track of the characters and the timeline of events since she has a strong visual learning style. They both learned more about the geography, history, and culture of the time as a result of listening to the story, engaging in some parts of the study/discussion guide, and doing follow-on supplemental reading activities of our choice that we found through the library and online. The audio drama helped bring things to life and give them imagery to help anchor the things they were learning. The study guide bonus that I mentioned above had a helpful suggested reading list for "more about Britons and Romans in the 1st Century" that gave us a starting point, but I also went with the flow of the specific interests of my kids.
The study guide gives some history background about Nero and Queen Boadicea, then it goes on to break the audio into about 4-7 minute chunks, with associated listening points, discussion questions, and vocabulary terms for each section. The "Listening Well" questions are meant to bring attention to what a child hears and remembers. We used these to also give a heads up on things to listen for, giving my daughter a purpose in listening the second time around. The "Thinking Further" questions are points of family or student discussion and can also be used as a springboard for further research and discovery, as well as giving even more depth or background to what the child is hearing. One of these sections included a recipe for "Roman Apple Cake" and another had one for "Children's Roman Noodle Bake"! They also had a few links to websites that complement the topics at hand. And the "Defining Words" section is simply a list of vocabulary terms that might be helpful to have a child look up (or a parent explain). The study guide then continued with historical background information about Beric the Briton, followed by three Bible Study topics, and a discussion of the significance of the colosseum in Christianity. It really is a valuable complementary addition to the story!
I would like to take a moment to caution those with young and/or more sensitive children to preview the audio and/or e-book beforehand just so you know what to expect. There are parts of the story that deal with battles, pagan beliefs & ritual, death (including a man being attacked and killed by a lion), sorrow, and loss. While these matters are handled very well by the producers considering they are a vital part of history and the story itself, and certainly they do a far better job than most any other modern book or movie with similar topics, they are still things that some parents might want to be aware of ahead of time, even if it is fairly well balanced and has a happy ending.
We liked Beric the Briton and my girls even wanted to listen to it again right after it ended. It was not our top favorite and didn't have as engaging a story as some others we've listened to, but it was still well worth our time and extremely well produced. We look forward to listening to it again in the future, as well as even more products from Heirloom Audio Productions. I would definitely recommend their audio dramas to anyone (homeschoolers or not) looking for an action adventure story with a Christian focus. If you want to know more, head on over to their website or click on the banner below to read more reviews from other homeschool families to see what they think too!
Or find them on social media:
Heirloom Audio on Facebook, Beric The Briton on Facebook, The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty on Facebook, Heirloom Stories on Twitter (@HeirloomStories), Heirloom Audio on Google+, and Heirloom Audio on Instagram @HeirloomAudioOfficial
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