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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Beloved Books: Sugar Creek Gang Audio Review

Our family loves audio books.  Every night, 4 children in 3 different rooms fall asleep to some audio story playing on their CD players.  And that doesn't even cover the ones we listen to on longer car rides.  So when the chance came up to review the Sugar Creek Gang audios, I jumped at it.

The first Sugar Creek Gang book was published in 1939.  Written by Paul Hutchens, the stories revolve around the adventures of a group of boys growing up in the early 1900s who live their faith, and have plenty of opportunity to see God at work in their lives and adventures.  They are told from the point of view of Bill, one of the members of the Sugar Creek Gang.

Paul Ramseyer narrates the series, which contains 36 audio books for a total of over 100 hours of listening.  The stories "engage the imagination and draw a child's heart into a living relationship with God."  They are dramatic readings of the original books.
There are 6 volumes, each containing 6 stories.  Volume 1, which we received to review, contains "The Swamp Robber", "The Killer Bear", "The Winter Rescue", "The Lost Campers", "Chicago Adventure", and "The Secret Hideout".  Each story stands alone, but they recommend listening to them in order as the spiritual truths build upon each other, and some later stories reference events from earlier ones. 

The pros:  Paul Ramseyer does a great job bringing these stories to life.  He uses different voices for each character, but reads with such enthusiasm that he enlivens even the descriptive text where there is no dialogue.  The stories present "real" boys in real life who learn life truths from their friendship with each other and the people they encounter.  Spiritual concepts such as praying are woven in naturally to the stories, which carry strong, positive Biblical messages.  The boys experience life by being out in it--fishing, working in the yard for their parents, etc.--instead of being inside and attached to technology as modern children tend to be, and I think that is a wonderful reminder to young people to "unplug" and go explore the world around them!

The cons:  While I think they are totally worth it, and the cost per hour of listening time really is minimal (less than $5 an hour), I do wish the volumes were not so costly, so that I could afford to gift them to others as well.  And because they were written in a different time where such things were more acceptable, there is some offhanded commenting about one of the boys in the gang being "fat" or being "difficult to sink because he floats like a barrel". 

The bottom line:  I have always heard good things about the Sugar Creek Gang stories, and now I know why.  I wholeheartedly recommend them.  My children have enjoyed passing the stories from room to room as each one finishes the next disk, but they are also great to listen to as a family so that you can discuss the Biblical truths, or even the events of the story, as they come up.  They definitely will keep your whole family entertained.  And Beloved Books, which sells the Sugar Creek Gang audios, also carries audios of some of our other favorite books such as Little Britches and the All of a Kind Family.  And a new one--Carry On, Mr. Bowditch read by Jim Weiss.  We love Jim Weiss, and we loved reading Mr. Bowditch last year, so that HAS to be a good audio book!

The Sugar Creek Gang CDs can be purchased for $54.95 per volume or at a discounted rate of $279.70 for all 6 volumes.  Or, you can try the first story, "The Swamp Robber" for a special price of $4.95 on CD or FREE as a download.  Crew members are receiving their own special discount code worth 20% off your order, so if you use SUGARCREEKGANG-20 you can save even more!  To see what other member of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought, go to the Review Crew blog.

Legal Disclaimer:  As a member of the Review Crew, I received the first volume of CDs for free in exchange for my honest review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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