Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Britfield & The Lost Crown {audiobook review}

I love books.  I was "the reader" as a child.  I initially fell in love with our homeschool philosophy because of its use of real books and primary sources.  I love to read to my kids, and I want them to enjoy quality literature.  Books are a beautiful way to introduce places, cultures, and positive character traits in a way that really stick with you!  I admit though, I can be picky about what books we read as a family and use in our homeschool.  When we were given the opportunity to review the book Britfield & The Lost Crown by C.R. Stewart, I read the free two chapter sample and knew it was a book I'd be happy to share with my kids!  The book was available to review as a softcover book, ebook, or audio book.  I chose the audio book because we had a road trip, and it seemed like a good choice for our family's age range.

What is it About?
Set in England, Britfield & The Lost Crown is a fiction adventure novel aimed at middle grade students.  Tom is an orphan living at the Weatherly orphanage, where the cruel headmasters treat the children like laborers, barely feed them enough to survive, and deprive them of an education.  All the children know they must stick together, but Tom is especially good friends with Sarah.  When Tom learns some shocking news about his family, it sets off a chain of events that take Tom and Sarah, who are being chased by Detective Gowerstone, from Yorkshire to Oxford, Windsor Castle and beyond!  Themes of loyalty and courage shine through the story, and I found it appropriate for my whole family.  My kids are 12, 10, 6 and 4 and even though it was most appropriate for my oldest two children, we listened together and found it enjoyable and action-packed!  It was a great story for a long car ride, but I would also recommend this book for anyone who wants a quality modern book to tie into their studies of England, or families preparing to travel there!

You can tell the author has a deep appreciation for British history and culture, as he seamlessly weaves in history, literature, geography, and architecture into the story.  For instance, we learned a little about Oxford University's founding and where the name Oxford came from, in such a casual way when the children's hot air balloon needed a place to land.  I was also pleased that the children in the story were reading classic authors like Shakespeare and Dickens, as that is the caliber I aspire to for my own children.  The writing of Britfield & the Lost Crown is not twaddle or dumbed down either.  It's vivid and descriptive, and even without illustrations, I could picture the scenes - I could see Sarah's panicked expression as she was slipping on the roof, or the flames sputtering out in the ballon, or Beagleswick's contorted face as he cleaned his glasses with a handkerchief.  The author tells a story and paints a picture at the same time, but the narration by Ian Russell also helps set the pacing and tone of the book.  His accent makes it feel authentic - he is able to distinguish his voice enough for the different characters.

The book is 17 chapters long (384 pages) and the audiobook is 9 hours and 25 minutes.  The shortest chapter was about eleven minutes, while nine chapters were over half an hour long, and the longest being an hour and ten minutes.  When you're riding in the car for hours at a time like we were, a good story helps the time go by.  If we were using this audiobook for "around town" trips or for a lunchtime story, the longer chapters make it harder to find a perfect stopping point, so that's something I'd keep in mind for future books that I'd expect to be written at a similar level.

Study Guide
The website offers a free 8 week Study Guide, and it is appropriate for middle grades, but if you're doing the book as a family, I think it could be beefed up for high schoolers if necessary.

The study guide includes a Synopsis and About the Author, and then jumps right into the chapter analysis.  A few chapters are grouped together, while most have their own section.  Each section includes Vocabulary, Comprehension, Going Deeper, and Learn More with Technology.  The Comprehension and Going Deeper sections can be done orally, or as written assignments if you wish, while the Vocabulary includes activities like multiple choice, matching, crossword puzzles, and fill-in-the-blanks, and might be best done as a worksheet.  Learn More with Technology encourages online research--some of the topics to research are British authors, places in the book, the history of orphanages, or the British Monarchy.  Students are often encouraged to choose a more specific topic within the one assigned, then produce maps or written assignments based on their research.

The study guide concludes with activities on Plot, Conflict, Characters and Theme.  There is also an answer key.  It was designed to be taught in a classroom as a comprehensive literary work over months or even a semester, but obviously homeschoolers will have more flexibility in how they approach something of this nature.  Literature-based and unit study homeschoolers could easily expand this guide into a broader study.  The website itself is a trove of information, with additional photographs and historical information about the real places mentioned throughout the book.

Final Thoughts
The book is well written and I think meets the needs of the target audience.  It's engaging, informative, and family-friendly!  My understanding from perusing the website is that Britfield & The Lost Crown is just the first in a series - future books will take place across Europe and into Asia!  If you're interested in what the rest of the crew thought of this book, be sure to hop on over and check out more reviews!

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Britfield & the Lost Crown  {Reviews}

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