Thursday, October 30, 2014

Review of Jim Hodges Productions' In the Heart of the Rockies

Jim Hodges Productions Review

My kids had MP3 players years before any other kids I knew. I'm talking they had them at 5 years old. They didn't (and still don't!) have any songs on them, though! Instead, they had old time radio shows and audio books! My kids absolutely love audio books (wonder where they got that from, said the lady with the almost 1,200 book Audible library...), so when we got the chance to review In the Heart of the Rockies (1860s) MP3 CD from Jim Hodges Productions, we jumped at the chance!

Jim Hodges Productions Review

In the Heart of the Rockies is part of the GA Henty series of audio books available from Jim Hodges Productions. It is 10 hours, 53 minutes long and is contained on one MP3 CD, meaning it won't play on a regular CD player, but it works great on your computer! It is recommended for ages 10+ and costs $25. Alternatively, you can order it as a digital download for $18. 

We also were given the chance to use the available Study Guide in PDF format ($12.00). The study guide is 32 pages long and is in a traditional format with vocabulary, chapter questions, and activities. Given that the Henty books were not written yesterday, it is wonderful to have these study guides available so that it is easy to take advantage of the rich vocabulary and historical accuracy the books provide.

How We Used the CD and Study Guide

Although I knew that we were going to use the study guide, I also knew that asking my children to pause between chapters of the book would be a losing battle. To that end, I let them (the youngest three - 9, 9, and 11) listen to the entire book before even mentioning the study guide! We listened to the book together over the course of a week at different times during the day, and all of the kids loved it. I chose this particular story because the Rockies are my children's favorite place to vacation. I was born in Colorado, and although my kids are native Texans, they have learned to love the Rocky Mountains as much as I do. They especially love learning about the history of the entire area, so this book was exactly the kind of thing we would seek out on our own! I'm kind of surprised we hadn't already read it, but I'm also quite glad! Some things are just perfect for audio.

The narration of this book is spot-on. It's not over-narrated. It's not forced. It's just a great reading of the story. It's the kind of book you listen to over and over. At almost 11 hours it's a good length. It's long enough to be a story you can get lost in, but not so long that you wonder if it will ever end. The 10-11 hour length is, in my very experienced opinion, a perfect one for most audio books. It allows for your attention span never to ebb. That was definitely the case with my children. The book tells the story of Tom Wade, a teenager from England who travels west to the West (the American West!). After he meets up with his uncle, he does all the things you would expect an adventurer in the 1860s to do: he fights Indians and winter blizzards and he searches for gold! While the book is packed with fun history, it definitely doesn't read like history.

When the book was over, I let them know that we were also reviewing the study guide. They weren't thrilled, but when they saw the study guide, they actually didn't mind! I think they layout of the guide was a huge help in this regard. For one thing, there is room to write right on it, and there are lines! Lines make study guides less intimidating. 

It's like they put limits. In any case, I assigned the guide to Nicholas (11), and he had no trouble completing it *without having to go back and re-listen to the book*. That's when you know the narration stuck! The vocabulary in the guide is so much fun - I loved that the kids learned so many great words that I take for granted, being a voracious reader of 18th and 19th century literature myself. It was a good exercise for Nicholas to look up the formal meanings of words that he had learned in context in hearing the book. The recall/comprehension questions were not difficult, which was good as Nicky is easily frustrated. In terms of the activities, there is a nice range that will work for different kinds of learners. If research is called for, there are hyper linked websites within the guide. Again, the fact that the book dealt with historical aspects of the Rocky Mountain region made it so much fun for the kids since we have visited so many of the places mentioned. It made them want both to listen and then to do the study guide's activities (making a chart of notable Mountain Men was a favorite!). Answers to questions are in the back of the guide in case they are needed.

I think it's obvious that we really loved this product. Jim Hodges Productions produces other audio books from companies whose names are easily recognizable in the homeschool world, so be sure to check out all of the offerings. GA Henty is definitely a good place to start, though! To read other Crew reviews of other Henty audio offerings from Jim Hodges Productions, click the banner below!

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