C.S. Lewis is a favorite author for our family and the chance to review a unit study about his life and writing was exciting. Especially for E, who has read the Narnia series all the way through several times. YWAM Publishing has a series of books called Christian Heroes: Then & Now. One of the titles in the series is C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller. This is the book we received to read and review. We also received a CD copy of the Unit Study Curriculum Guide to go along with the book.
As with any book, when C.S. Lewis: Master Storyteller arrived in the house, it disappeared very quickly into E’s room. I didn’t see it again until she was done with it. I don’t remember for sure but it was either later that evening or early the next morning. She flew through the book, enjoying every moment of it. She had so much new information in her head that she could hardly stand it. She had so much to share with me about Jack (the name C.S. Lewis was called). Her recall of the information was fantastic and she enjoyed sharing it with me. As I read through the book, she kept asking me if I remembered things that she had read.
It is a very well written book that grabs your attention and holds it well. It is written on a comfortable level, even for me. The engaging storyline is filled with well researched facts that carry you through the life of one of the beloved authors. You find that Jack was enamored with stories from the time he was a very small child and that his life centered around that in various ways at all time. While many people know that CS Lewis was at one time an atheist, I was surprised to find that he had been a believer before that. He drifted away from his beliefs during the time in his life when there were no hard and fast answers to struggles and no one really to guide him. He was brought back to belief in God through friendships with folks who cared enough about him to challenge his thinking and make him really question his thoughts. With authors such as JRR Tolkien, Lewis grew and became the wonderful author we think of today. When a storyteller had gone through all that Lewis did – death in his family, two world wars, rough boarding schools, and wonderful friendships – you can’t help but love even more the stories that reveal so much about him.
The Unit Study Curriculum Guide is a wonderful resource. Filled with a large number of possible activities, it is a necessity to pare down the activities to those that fit a need with your student or meet a goal for the student. We had a CD copy of the guide but I needed to be able to mark up the pages of it with what we were going to do and what we were going to skip. I ended up printing out the parts I needed; I printed four pages of the guide per sheet of paper. The font size in the PDF file is large enough that it was still very readable printed that way.
The unit study contains ideas and information in a variety of categories. From written work (essay suggestions, creative writing, and hands-on projects) to Bible studies and social studies, there is more than enough ideas here to find something to fit each student. There were certain activities I would have loved to have E do but they just didn’t suit her style. I had to admit that she would do better with other ideas. I love the idea of creating a relief map of the areas Jack lived but she was more interested in creating a display with things the represent various parts of his life. I would have enjoyed doing all of the thinking questions; she wanted to answer them verbally and do the vocabulary in a different way. When I let her use the vocabulary from the questions to make a word search and a crossword puzzle online, she was excited. She not only created them, having to type the words several times along with their definitions, but she also worked them. She enjoyed learning a bit about the countries that are part of the U.K. and how that played into Jack’s life, including looking up pictures of the homes in which he lived and wrote. She explored the two world wars a bit, as well. Another fun thing the guide suggested was looking up some of his works. One is called The Four Loves and we had an audio copy. It was enjoyable to listen to the only known recording of C.S. Lewis. He sounded much different than we expected. There is so much more we could have done!
The guide included some websites that corresponded to C.S. Lewis and his life. I was evaluating a couple of them for E to use when L saw them over my shoulder. She came over to see what I was looking at. After she finished her schoolwork, she asked if she could explore those sites. I allowed her to and she has gone back several times to learn more about World War II and the effects of the war on the children, especially the Jewish children. She has searched out books at the library and is going to start reading the C.S. Lewis book when she finished the books study she is working on now. That is a “rabbit trail” that would not have happened without this study guide.
When a book and its activities spark the kind of excitement about learning that just cannot be ignored – well, that is the definition and example of quality. And YWAM Publishing has found that quality with Heroes of History, Christian Heroes: Then & Now, and the corresponding Unit Study Curriculum Guide for each book. We are already searching out more.
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