Monday, August 26, 2019

Book Club: Book Review of Britfield & The Lost Crown

I love reading books! In fact, most of our family loves reading but we often have trouble finding books that our teen finds interesting and enjoys reading. When we were given the opportunity to review Britfield & The Lost Crown by C.R. Stewart, I was excited because I thought it sounded very interesting and was hopeful that our teenage son would enjoy it as well.

I read the softcover edition of Britfield & The Lost Crown (386 pages) over approximately a week (with a break in between to pass the book along to our teen). The story is fast paced and the end of each section or chapter entices the reader to continue reading so they can find out what happens next. I know I had trouble putting the book down.

After the table of contents, there are five maps of the key areas of England that Tom and Sarah (the main characters) visit followed by the story itself. These maps are detailed and would help a reader unfamiliar with England, Oxford, Windsor Castle, London, and Canterbury place the characters in the real world. The font is larger than most books – which is really nice for late night reading.

What is the Story?

The cover of the book invites one into a story fraught with danger and excitement. The focal point of Britfield & The Lost Crown is the journey of Tom and Sarah as they escape the orphanage of Weatherly and travel through various cities of Great Britain (including Oxford, London, and Canterbury).

At the beginning of the book, we read how difficult the 56 children at Weatherly had it. They were used by the Grievouses to do manual labor and treated to poor living conditions. There were a few individuals who attempted to help them, like the cook who provided extra food when he could, but overall the lives of the children were only enriched by several books they shared and read.

After discovering that there is something special about Tom – in his file at the orphanage is the word, "Britfield," the children prepare for a daring escape. Tom wants to get out of Weatherly and wants to take his friend Sarah with him. All the children band together to help them and there are some great scenes described as they get out of the orphanage.

During the escape and journey to London, Tom and Sarah quickly learn that 10 pounds is not enough to get them very far. In several occurrences throughout the book, they rely upon the generosity of others, including an Oxford student, a train ticket taker, a taxi cab driver, and an Oxford professor who joins them on their journey. All these take place while Detective Gowerstone is hunting them down and using all the resources available to him (and more) of the New Scotland Yard.

How Did We Include the Book in Our Homeschool?

I set out knowing that I would read Britfield & The Lost Crown in its entirety. As I have stated before, I like to read. I like to read stories (both fiction and nonfiction) set in the United Kingdom. After reading through the first two chapters that were provided as a sample, I was pretty sure I would enjoy the rest of the book.

As it is summer time, we are on a relaxed homeschooling schedule. I asked our teen to read the first couple of chapters and complete the study guide materials for the first two chapters. If he liked the book, I would have him continue reading it when we our regular schedule in September along with using the rest of the study guide.

The Study Guide

We also had the chance to review the 8-week study guide. I only asked our teen to do a few pages of the 83-page long study guide this month but we will be revisiting it in September. The study guide provides a synopsis of the story, a brief biography of the author, student work for all 17 chapters, additional resources, and an answer key. The additional resources are concluding questions regarding plot, theme, characters, and a complete vocabulary list.

The first three sets of questions deal with two chapters apiece while the rest of the units each deal with only one chapter. Each section contains vocabulary questions (these vary from crossword, multiple choice, fill-ins, and more), comprehension questions, going deeper questions, and learn more with technology (which requires the student to do some additional research on different topics).

The comprehension questions are general questions checking on whether or not your child read and understand the material. For example, one of the early questions is: "What is Tom most afraid of? How does it make the escape harder?"

The "Going Deeper" questions ask the student questions to get them to think beyond the story and involve other activities like having them draw a picture of the orphans at Weatherly or of Detective Gowerstone. Another question asks students to think about what makes Oxford University an "aura of privilege and tradition." I can see this question leading to discussions with our teen about local colleges and universities that may or may not be similar in feeling to Oxford.

I like that the "Learn More with Technology" section allows for digging deeper into British history like learning about Winston Churchill, Windsor Castle, Canterbury, and even the significance of tea in British culture. I can easily see some of these questions turning into longer research projects for students who are interested in learning more and more.

My only complaint about the study guide is that there is a watermark feature to the pages which requires the use of more ink in the printing of it.

One of the many vocabulary activities in the study guide.

Our Thoughts

I am very pleased to share that our picky teen—who does not enjoy reading like his father and I do—said he enjoyed it and really liked the characters. He liked reading about the experiences of Tom and Sarah in the orphanage and wanted to read more. This is pretty high honors from our kid who can put down a story or even stop a movie in the middle of a cliffhanger. He isn't like me in that he won't stay up late to finish a book (I did stay up later a few evenings to keep reading Britfield & The Lost Crown).

I found Britfield & The Lost Crown to be an excellent tale woven through the landscape of England. I enjoyed seeing England through the eyes of Tom who was experiencing many things for the first time. Tom had spent most of his life in orphanages. He had never been on the Underground and this was one of his many new adventures as they traveled on the Tube to Waterloo Station. I also liked the creativity of Tom and Sarah. This is an excellent skill to foster in our own children.

My only reservation was that it seemed to wrap up a little too quickly but then again I realize that the book cannot go on forever and that there will be more in the series. In fact, I can't wait until the next one – Britfield & The Rise of the Lion – is released in the fall of 2020.

I would recommend Britfield & The Lost Crown for middle school students through to adults. Even though the main characters of Tom and Sarah, and later Professor Hainsworth, suffer challenges and difficulties, we see them excited and happy to be trying new things and living a great adventure. I think everyone could do with a little adventure in their life.

Want to Learn More about Britfield & The Lost Crown?

Many other families had the chance to read or listen to the audio version of Britfield & The Lost Crown – be sure to check out their reviews!

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