I love G. A. Henty. And I love living books. And since homeschooling, I’ve learned to love history. So, having the chance to receive an audio CD from Jim Hodges Productions in exchange for an honest review, excited us all. I chose True to the Old Flag: A Tale of the American War of Independence (1774-1781) . I also received a PDF version of the Study Guide.
About the Story
The story begins in Massachusetts where Mary Wilson is writing a letter to her cousin in which she accepts an offer for her teenage son, Harold, to go west to live with them for awhile. Times were troubled as the colonists were beginning to complain about being taxed and only being able to trade with the “mother country.” Mary’s husband, John, is a loyalist and that has caused discord between the Wilsons and their neighbors. John has decided he wants to eventually move to the western frontier but first he and Mary must travel to England to sell their estate. Due to the unrest in the colony, they prefer for Harold to stay with the cousins rather than staying behind and risk succumbing to the mindset of the rebels.
Mr. Welch (the cousin’s husband) helps Harold learn to shoot, fish and other skills a frontiersmen needs to know. After a few months, news reaches them of nearby Indian attacks. Very soon, while Harold was on watch, he spotted two Indians peering over the fence and Harold swiftly shot, and killed, one of the Indians. The household buries the Indian’s body the following day and continue warily; but tension is in the air.
Then one day while Harold had taken his younger cousin, Nellie, out on the canoe to fish, the Indians attack. This is Harold’s first experience of being attacked and he managed it extremely well, keeping Nellie and himself defended and then escaped to hide away until the scrimmage was over. The family managed to keep their hold and the Indians eventually left.
Later, Harold gets reunited with this parents when they return from England. They return to find the colonists more determined to break away from England’s control. Mr. Wilson is definitely in the minority believing that the colonists were greedy expecting to have England’s protection yet refusing to pay for any of the land that they were working. England tries to work with the colonists removing the Stamp Tax and resorting to only have a tax on imports. The rebellious spirit grows and the colonists become determined to break free regardless of what that would mean.
Harold is still with his parents when the first fighting begins. Mr. Wilson allows Harold to ride with him as he strikes out to warn the English militia that the colonists were in the streets with weapons, ready to fight. Mr. Wilson is too late as the English troops advance and proceed to take over.
And the War of Independence begins.
Mr. Wilson decides to offer his services to the English troops and Harold decides to go and fight alongside his father for the King. Mrs. Wilson goes to Boston to stay with relatives during this time. Harold continues with his father, who becomes a captain, as the war escalates. Captain Wilson runs into a friend of his, Peter, who is a scout. He offers to take Harold with him to teach him the ways of a scout.
Harold continues with Peter and his comrades which takes them on adventures up to Canada and he learns how to be a talented scout. Meanwhile, they continue to hear how England tries to negotiate with the colonists who refuse now to agree to anything less than complete independence. As the English takes blow after blow, loyalists are forced to retreat.
During the winter, Harold still travels with Peter and his fellow scouts, consisting of a few Indian and Harold’s black friend, Jake. They happen upon the cabin and land where Harold stayed with his cousins and found the cabin burned to the ground and skeletons nearby. A hunter that Harold had met while living there comes by and states that young Nellie had been captured by another Indian tribe that had been going through and ransacking villages. Earlier in their adventures they had tried to save a Scottish man and his family and the troop happened upon them later to find that this man’s daughter had also been captured.
The scouts decide to take it upon themselves to find the tribe and rescue the young girls. The Indians followed in hot pursuit once they realized the girls were gone. Time goes on as the group travels by canoe and on foot as the winter approaches. The war continues on and the other troops join forces with the Americans. The soldiers have to endure bad weather and limited food supply.
Eventually the group gets broken up and Harold becomes imprisoned and his black friend Jake is sold off as a slave. Jake breaks free after he is mistreated (might be hard for younger ears) and then returns to break Harold out of prison. A few months later, they reunite with their former scout friend. Meanwhile, the war continues and the American troops grow as the English troops suffer loss. The war ends when Cornwallis has to surrender. Overall, France, Spain and Holland had all joined America in fighting against England. Harold and Jake leave for England and rejoined his mother and father. Later, he fulfills his plan to return to Canada and build his homestead along with his wife/cousin Nellie. (Yes, my kids caught that. I tried to explain that perhaps she was a distant cousin…..)
Overall, I liked the story and it was nice to see the war from the viewpoint of the English; most history books I’ve read only gives the Americans point of view.
About the Study Guide
The study guide for “True to the Old Flag” is a 36-page PDF file. The study guide covers two chapters at a time. First, you are given a list of vocabulary words for which you need to write the definition. This is given in order of how the words appear in the story rather than alphabetical (which made it much easier!). After the definitions, there are several questions to be answered. The questions are not simple yes or no but really makes sure that you comprehend the story. Finally, there are activities to compliment the study. The activities varied from research and reports, crafting, timeline and even internet links. There are also three quizzes included. At the end of the study guide, answers are given for all of the questions and the quizzes. The very last page of the study guide gives a list of character traits and definitions for them.
The Study Guide was a great way to keep all of the details of the story straight since there are so many names and locations mentioned and it would otherwise be easy to get mixed up as to which side each person supported. A timeline is started after chapter four. I would also suggest having a map nearby as you listen to the audio.
The Fine Details
Length of audio: 10 hours
Format: MP3 audio files (The files will play on computers and and MP3 compatible CD players.)
Cost: MP3 CD $25; digital download $18; study guide $12
Ages: appropriate for 10 years and older (although I had my 7 year old listen, he did wander during quite a bit of it); I allowed him to act out the stories with his Playmobil characters while we listened.
Please note: One of the young men traveling with the scouts is a young black man who is often talked to and referred to as “n****r” and there’s some stereotypical references. I personally do not allow my children to talk like this but listening to the story allowed some discussion as what was accepted then compared to today.
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