H.E. Marshall, the author of This Country of Ours and other history books for young people, was a gifted storyteller with a passion for her subject. Her take on history is never dull nor dry, being a series of stories about individuals and the events they shaped or found themselves caught up in. Alcazar Audioworks has undertaken to make this book available on CD, unabridged, but divided into eight parts. This makes it easier to buy just the chapters I need for our current history studies, which helps our homeschool budget.
To get an idea of the book, look for it online as a free e-text. The first time through this book, with our older students I read aloud from the e-text. This time through I like having it as an audiobook, as we can listen to the CD together or my students can listen when I'm busy with something else. The readings are divided into tracks, making it easy to break up the reading and have the listeners tell back (or narrate) what they've heard.
Part Four: Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies is comprised of chapters 35 to 44, approximately one-and-three-quarters of an hour of listening material. You'll find here the stories of the founding of Maryland, how New Amsterdam became New York (I'd heard this story before, but the author goes into more detail here than I'd heard) and more of New York's history (including pirates in general and Captain Kidd in particular!), the founding of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. You'll hear of William Penn, young Benjamin Franklin, Peter Stuyvesant, and James Ogelthorpe, among others. There are men who are kind and wise, and others who are foolish and tyrannical. There are wars with the natives, and conflict amongst those who are carving out new colonies.
Two readers alternate, helping to keep the listener's attention, and they read in a lively manner, adding interest to an already interesting story. These are the sorts of tales that make for vivid re-enactments later, especially of battles and thrilling adventures.
One note of caution: As This Country of Ours was published in 1917, it does not meet today's standards of political correctness. For example, the section on Indian wars in North and South Carolina refer to "Redmen" and "Pale-faces." We use this sort of reference as a jumping off place for discussion. In any event, the author is not one to gloss over the failings of the Europeans in this history, laying out in painstaking detail flaws as well as heroic deeds on the part of all the participants in the telling. The author draws from original sources such as journals and letters, and history is neither romanticized nor sanitized for the modern student. Some of the material was too graphic for our more sensitive listeners, and so our students who were going through this material in their history studies had to listen with earphones.
This Country of Ours is one of the books used in the Ambleside Online curriculum. The sets correspond to the divisions within the book, rather than Ambleside Online years. However, it is not difficult to figure out which set(s) are needed, if you compare the chapter listings on Alcazar's and Ambleside's websites.
Whether or not you are using Ambleside Online's reading list, you'll find This Country of Ours a fascinating look at early American History, especially if you live in one of the states featured in the stories. Highly recommended.