Wow! Wow! Wow!
That is what first came to mind as we began to listen to With Lee in Virginia from Heirloom Audio Productions. Let me preface this by saying that I worked at Walt Disney World in Florida for 13 years so I am used to quality. I worked in quality and I know what quality entertainment is all about. From the moment this audio book began to play I was impressed by the quality of this production. It was like going into a Disney attraction at one of the Disney parks. It was as if Walt Disney was the producer of With Lee in Virginia himself. The fact that every member of our family is a history buff, and we also love G. A. Henty, the author of the book that this audio production is based on, made the listening even sweeter and more exciting.
First of all, this isn’t just an audio book. Audio books are books that are read aloud on tape. This isn’t like that. This isn’t like audio theater either. Audio theater is like a radio drama. This is much more than that as well. I like what the With Lee in Virginia website calls this production. They call it an “Audio Adventure”. It mixes the voices of real actors like Kirk Cameron, Sean Austin, Brian Blessed, Chris Anthony and Kelsey Lansdowne with fantastic sound effects and a musical score written by an emmy award winning composer. As I mentioned in the first paragraph, this is very well done!
I think that in light of all of the recent events regarding the confederate flag, the confederacy, and the Civil War, With Lee in Virginia is very timely. It reminds us that there were good, decent, Christian men on both sides of fight. It reiterates the fact that, despite what the history books or modern day historians try make it, the Civil War was not as cut and dry as you might think. Although, of course, we abhor slavery, this has made my entire family reevaluate the terms “good guys and bad guys”.
G.A, Henty wrote historical fiction. Although many characters in his books were fictional, many people that he wrote about were real people and he writes about them and historical events in an accurate fashion. In With Lee in Virginia the main fictional characters are fifteen-year-old Vincent Wingfield and a slave that his family owns, Dan, who is more than just a slave, but Vincent’s friend. Vincent is young person that believes that slaves should be treated kindly and like humans. He comes to the defense of some slaves that live on a neighboring plantation, and he is teaching one of his own slaves to read. When the Civil War breaks out, he and many of his friends quickly join thinking that it will be a grand adventure but they soon find out that war is not grand at all. It leads to death and suffering.
My kids were captivated by this Heirloom Audio Productions recording from the start. Jacob, our nine year old, was reluctant to listen at first, but, after listening to the first part one day, he couldn’t wait until the next day to finish the 2 1/2 hour audio adventure. Joshua began discussing some of the issues brought up the story even before we stopped listening. John Allen, who really loves G.A. Henty, was ecstatic about it and began commenting on how we need to read this or that Henty novel since we liked With Lee in Virginia so much. Sarah and I were amazed at how well done it is, and were delighted with the discussions that the kids were having.
We love it so much that we are listening to it in the car this week as we travel up to Canada. This time I plan on using the free downloadable study guide that can be used along with the audio adventure. The study guide is just as well done as the production. This 52 page guide has divided the recording in to 38 sections. Each section has three groups of questions – Listening Well, Thinking Further and Defining Words. Listening Well are listening comprehension questions that make sure the child understands what he has heard. The Thinking Further questions make the child think more deeply about the life lessons that are being taught in the story. Defining Words is a vocabulary section that lists words that your child may or may not know. G.A. Henty was definitely a Christian author, and Heirloom Audio Productions is a Christian company so the study guide concludes with a Bible Study on duty, loving your enemy, and a section on what the Bible says about slavery. There are also some short biographies of the main non-fictional characters, a suggested book section for further reading and more.
I don’t think that there is any doubt in your mind what we think about With Lee in Virginia. We absolutely love it! And, we are now big fans of Heirloom Audio Productions. So much so that – shhhhh, don’t tell the kids – I am thinking about ordering one of their other G.A, Henty audio adventures to be delivered to my sister’s house (we’re visiting her after our stay in Canada) so that we have another great production to listen to on the way home! I really think you all will love With Lee in Virginia as well and you can find out more about it by clicking on any one of the highlighted links above. To find out more about what other members of The Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about this product just click on the banner below. Happy listening!