Thursday, September 29, 2016

Homeschool Review Crew: Heirloom Audio Productions Presents The Cat of Bubastes

Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

Heirloom Audio Productions recently released The Cat of Bubastes which is their brand new audio drama production that we had the honor and privilege to review. The audio theater production is based on one of G.A. Henty's well-written novels. He is a 19th century author who wrote many historically accurate novels. The physical CD set arrived with an assortment of bonus digital components.

I told my daughter that Heirloom Audio Productions was offering the Homeschool Review Crew another audio drama, she immediately asked me which one and headed to the website to hear the trailer teaser. She was hooked! Her favorite animal is a cat so that aspect immediately caught her attention. She also enjoys studying Ancient Egypt so I'd say this audio drama reeled her in hook, line, and sinker. The Cat of Bubastes is suitable for children ages 6 through adulthood. However, Alyssa wanted me to point out that there were a few audio battle scenes that may not be appropriate for younger children. The Cat of Bubastes is jam-packed with excellent voice acting skills, intriguing sound effects, and original melodic music. This Christian audio definitely brought our History lessons to life.
Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

Story Summary
The story takes place around 1250 AD. The Egyptians conquered the Rebu nation taking many locals with them to Egypt as slaves. The story centers around the adventures of a teenage prince named Amuba. His father, The King, was killed during the battle. Amuba was held captive and became a servant to an Egyptian high priest named Ameres. His charioteer, protector, and loyal servant (Jethro) followed him. Amuba was assigned to Chebron as a personal servant and companion. Later in the story, Chebron, the high priest's son, accidentally kills the sacred cat with an unlucky shot. His sister's cat was next in line to replace the recently ill and deceased Cat of Bubastes. The locals were angry and sought a punishment of death to fit the crime. Chebron and Amuba are encouraged to flee the country for freedom and safety. Did they decide to flee the country or admit the killing was an accident? If you want to know more you'll need to listen to the audio.

What We Received
  • Physical CD Set
  • Welcome Letter with Link and Password for the Following Bonus Extras (Digital Downloads):
            1.) E-Study Guide and Discussion Starter
            2.) MP3 CD Downloads
            3.) John Campbell's MP3 Original Score Soundtrack
            4.) The Cat of Bubastes E-Book
            5.) Cast and Movie Poster (22" x 34") 
            6.) Printable Inspirational Verse 22" x 36" Poster (1 Chronicles 17:20)
            7.) Behind the Scenes Documentary
            8.) The Live the Adventure E-Newsletter 

Product Descriptions
Physical CD Set
The professionally recorded set included two audio CD's packaged and encased in a tri-fold cardboard case. The foundational verse reminds all of us the importance of worshipping our one and only God. The high-quality CD set provides your family with 2 hours of thrill-seeking suspense, action, and adventure. Accurate historical content is seamlessly weaved into this fictional adventure story. The narrating cast of voice actors and actresses are listed on the inside of the case with all the credits. Their photos are shown on the back of the CD case. There was a referenced Scripture verse in the middle of the case behind the product availability booklet. The Scripture states:

 "O Jehovah, there is none like Thee neither is there any god besides Thee." 

Study Guide
The accompanying 47-page study guide available in PDF format is organized into three main sections: Listening Well, Thinking Further, and Defining Words. The disc number, track number, an length were indicated at the top of each page. The guide encourages family conversations about the story. The Introduction found at the beginning of the guide will explain the layout and features. The Expand Your Learning sections will pop up frequently throughout the study. This section will motivate your learner to dig deeper. The guide contains comprehension or discussion questions. I like to describe the questions types as "thin" and "thick" questions. The guide offers both levels. The "thin" questions are the right there questions you can easily answer after listening to the story a few times. The "thick" questions are more thought-provoking and require the student to research, make inferences, draw conclusions, or refer to a concordance and/or the Bible. They are the deeper questions which may not always have just one right answer. A list of vocabulary words was also provided for each track in the Defining Words section.
Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

There are three Bible studies at the back of the guide counting Biblical scripture and truths. We did not utilize this section, but I may lightly touch on the top in the near future.

The Bible Study sections are as follows:
  • God Meant It For Good
  • The Knowledge of God
  • Idolatry and Tyranny.

The study guide contains a short 2-page essay discussing the historical background information related to the The Cat of Bubastes. Additionally, two informative biographies about relevant people such as G.A. Henty and Moses are included. A reading list and short list of websites are listed at the end of the guide to encourage independent research or to further your study as a family.

The corresponding soundtrack of the audio drama is available in MP3 format and contains 33 tracks of beautifully scored music originals. It is written by award-winning John Campbell. I really enjoyed listening to this soundtrack as I worked.
Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

This is a 350-page ebook containing 20 chapters. The file is in PDF format. Chapters are indicated numerically using Roman numerals. Heirloom Audio Productions added colorful borders and cat graphics. I wish the cat image was available as a printable color sheet. This is a huge book and will take us several months to read through the contents. The living book adds in more details and contains more fact-oriented history which would further enrich an Ancient Egypt study. You'll feel like you are actually in the story. The story (audio and ebook versions) is fascinating and has captured our attention at every turn whether it be for suspenseful moments, conspiracy, warfare, romance endeavors, adventurous journeys, or historical facts of interest. The book will definitely enrich our studies.
Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes

Behind-the-Scenes Video
You'll be able to view 18 minutes of Behind the Scenes documentary footage in MP4 format which reveals the passion of the cast.

The promotional cast and verse posters are both printables included in the set I received. They are in PDF format. I ended up printing the Scripture verse poster for my daughter in gray scale. She hung it on her bedroom door.

How We Use The Cat of Bubastes
Audio CD Set
We took a less formal approach during this review than we did when reviewing The Dragon and the Raven. I wanted Alyssa to enjoy and focus on the adventurous plot of the story. First, we listened to the entire production for entertainment or enjoyment purposes. After reviewing the Dragon and the Raven, my daughter asked if she could listen first so that she can focus on the story. I noticed that by doing it this way, Alyssa retained the story's plot better and learned more about Ancient Egypt. The characters were memorable thanks to the superb narrations.

I used The Cat of Bubastes by Heirloom Audio Productions with my 8-year-old daughter, Alyssa. We accessed the audio drama from our MAC 10.9.5 computer and listened to the story together as a family using iTunes. The MP3 CD was added to our iTunes library making it easily accessible at the end of the day. Some days we listened to the CD set using her CD player so that the audio was more portable. She would bring the CD set out 3-5 times a week and listen for about 15-45 minutes each session. Many times my daughter begged to keep it on longer. She listened to several tracks at a time and heard the entire production numerous times. The first listening session was completed quickly. She recognized the familiar voice of John Ryhs-Davies from the other audio drama and from a movie. You will need Adobe Reader to open the PDF files.

We listened to the audio while we prepped our freezer meals one night. We also listened to the audio in the car on the way to piano lessons as a review which was a 30-minute drive. During other listening sessions, my daughter jotted down related project ideas and looked at her Ancient Egyptian God cards. She also colored an Egyptian cat coloring page that I found online.

This set was utilized as a Literature and History supplement to our History and Reading curricula. We are currently using an American History curriculum, but I also wanted to study Ancient Egypt several times a week. She recently started working through an Ancient Egypt lapbook and online study to reinforce the information she was learning about Egyptian culture.

E-Study Guide
Next, we listened to the audio drama in shorter session or segments. I wanted to use the study guide more, but the hands-on projects we loved most last time were harder to find in this guide. I also knew that we wouldn't be able to do everything. I will definitely utilize the study guide in the future when Alyssa is a few more years older. We decided not to print the study guide out. My ink was running low so we viewed the questions on the computer screen.

I read aloud several of the Listening Well questions prior to listening to the audio. I wanted her to listen attentively and focus on her reading comprehension skills. I also wanted her to listen for the story details. We verbally discussed each track briefly after the audio segment. I chose several age-appropriate comprehension questions to discuss rather than discussing all of the questions. A variety of question types were given including both factual and evaluative. She did not respond in written format, because she has many other writing intensive subjects. I could assess her level of understanding based on her verbal responses.

The Thinking Further questions encouraged her to deepen her level of understanding. I thought we would complete  several Arts and Craft projects, but there weren't many hands-on activities suggested this time. Osiris was one God that was mentioned and researched. She visited the library and checked out Ancient Egypt books. She was often asked to identify locations on the provided maps. She identified Egypt on a map and compared atlas pictures. She pointed out other locations that were mentioned in the story.

The Defining Words section offers a list of vocabulary words which were useful as part of our personal word study program. I chose 1-3 relevant yet unfamiliar words from the study guide each week. She defined the words on index cards and used them in the context of a sentence. The meanings were found using online and print dictionaries. Thesauruses were used to find synonyms and antonyms. The words were stored in a mini photo album. She expanded her vocabulary knowledge by occasionally using a vocabulary graphic organizer to analyze the word. She wrote the synonyms and antonyms too. I explained the meanings of several vocabulary words prior to listening to the audio to help her comprehend parts of the story at a higher level. The word selection was a good balance of both basic and advanced words. She recognized several words, but was also introduced to unfamiliar words such as cormorant, garrison, parry, consternation, melee, and circuitous. I'm thankful that there are some challenging words, but not so many that she'll become frustrated.

The Expand Your Learning section contained informative yet interesting blurbs which may inspire creative projects in the near future. I wish they would have added project suggestions to this section possibly in bullet form. For example, after reading about the importance of Dung Beetles your child could create a Dung Beetle Scarab Amulet. Another project suggestion would be to write their names using hieroglyphics. Printable maps could be provided so that students could mark specific locations from the story or draw routes traveled.
Her First Name In Hieroglyphics

The comprehensive study guide contains a variety of resources making it complete for its purposes. The study guide may be more appropriate for older or more advanced children. I was a little disappointed with this particular study guide only because there weren't as many hands-on activities included in the guide which I believe would make them more user-friendly for younger children.

She listened to the soundtrack during her free time, when doing chores, at meal time, or when working on extra projects related to the story. The soundtrack was an MP3 formatted download which opened in iTunes for us. Unfortunately, that means we needed to be in the same room as the computer or the volume needed to be loud. I may attempt to download it to our iPad which would make it more portable. I asked Alyssa to guess which soundtrack correlated with which story event or scene.

Alyssa started reading one chapter a day from the e-book 2-3 times a week after hearing the audio theater drama. She opens the download and reads the book from the computer. Occasionally, we will take turns reading paragraphs from chapters. This is usually on our busy days or days when she's tired, but still wants to hear the story. As we read, we work on improving her read aloud skills, fluency, accuracy, and intonation. She liked all the descriptive words utilized in the book. She said it helped her "paint a picture in her mind." She could visualize the characters and the setting easier. I think she's been listening in on my literature class.

Overall Thoughts
My daughter definitely enjoyed The Cat of Bubastes more than The Dragon and the Raven, which she still thoroughly enjoyed when we reviewed it in the past. We can't wait to see what new audio productions will be released in the future. I wonder if any more American History stories will be added? We hope to listen to more of their audio dramas this year.

The Cat of Bubastes is an outstanding audio drama production jam-packed with action. Themes of love, courage, loyalty, friendship, faith, and family are all evident and woven into this presentation. My daughter could easily visualize the story elements. History was a highlight of her day. I was grateful that virtues such as honesty, grace, hope, courage, wisdom, responsibility, and more were integrated into the story.

My daughter says she will be listening to this particular story for years. Her absolute favorite part of the study guide was the Expand Your Learning section. Her interest was captivated and she easily thought of projects related to the topic. She's been asking me to pick up a bag of beans and sesame seeds so that we can make Ta'amia. She has been doing a lot of cooking and baking this year so I love that Heirloom Audio Productions added a recipe to the study guide. Although . . . I was hoping for a few more recipes.  

I HIGHLY recommend ANY of the audio dramas produced by Heirloom Audio Productions. The Cat of Bubastes is an exceptional story that I hope everyone will get the chance to hear. I've been wanting to read the book for years, but I just couldn't find the time and this audio drama gave me the opportunity to finally hear it. 

If you are a Christian family with auditory learners in your household, then they will benefit greatly from listening to this production. Charlotte Mason, Delight-Directed, Classic, Unit Study, or individuals implementing a living book approach may appreciate utilizing this audio production. You don't have to be a homeschooler to appreciate these audios. If your family enjoys audio books, then you will want to give Heirloom Audio Productions a try. The two audio dramas we've listened to have NOT disappointed us. 

This audio production could be used as a supplement to an Ancient Egypt unit study. Several other subjects such as Literature, History, Geography, Writing, Vocabulary, and more have been addressed. You could also use it as a stand alone product. There are somewhat descriptive battle scenes which mention blood and fighting so parental discretion is advised for use with younger children or audiences as with any audio or movie suggestion.

What We Liked
  • Spirited Voice Narrations
  • Adventure and Action-Packed Plot Brought History to Life
  • Comprehensiveness of the Study Guide
  • Numerous Components Enrich Study
  • Audio Drama Portability
Possible Vendor Suggestions
  • Add More Hands-On Projects and Recipes
  • Include Printable Timelines and Maps in the Study Guide
  • Glossary of Vocabulary Words and Their Meanings
  • Character and Setting Coloring Pages Available for Younger Children
  • Related Activity or Fun Pages to Complete During the Audio
  • Complement the Study with a Corresponding Lapbook
  • Corresponding Notebooking Sheets Offering Ample Writing Space for Questions
  • Differentiated Study Guides with a Focus on a Younger Version
  • CD Soundtrack
The bundled packages range from $19.97 - $99.97. The highest priced package, The Family Four-Pack, includes 4 copies of the audio drama. You could give the CD's as gifts to friends and family members - your History loving friends will thoroughly enjoy it. Visit the website store for more information and to hear audio samples.

Social Media
Instagram @HeirloomAudioOfficial

Many other members of the Homeschool Review Crew reviewed The Cat of Bubastes from Heirloom Audio Productions. Visit the link to find out about their experiences.
Heirloom Audio Productions ~Cat of Bubastes
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