Fast forward a lot of years, and I found out they'd be a Crew vendor. I was interested in getting a good look at their material, especially now that they've expanded their line to include Junior Analytical Grammar and Beyond the Book Report. Plus there was some book or another, but reading the website didn't pique my interest in that at all.
Imagine my shock when I received that book, The Eternal Argument, and determined this was something I definitely had to start reading and discussing with my kids.
I don't know how to explain this book in a way that will explain it any better than the website does. But I have to try. The idea behind this book is to give you a "lens" through which you and your students can view literature.
Robin Finley taught 8th grade English for a lot of years, and one of the statements she makes in the introductory materials is that she feels that she is pretty good at explaining "stuff" in a way that even a roomful of 13 year olds can grasp. I think that comes through in her writing, as she is good at putting abstract concepts into language that makes sense. She uses fairly informal language, tells stories, and throws in some jokes as well.
Her recommendation is that you read this book aloud with your teens and discuss it. My recommendation is the same. This is not a book to hand off to a teen and tell them to read. This is a book to read aloud, with plenty of time to pause mid-paragraph and go off in a discussion.
We set off with the idea of reading a chapter a day, a couple days each week. We ended up sometimes reading a few paragraphs and discussing the material for another 45 minutes. Some days, we would actually complete an entire chapter, and talk over the discussion questions at the end.
None of this tells you what this book is about, though. This book basically traces "the great conversation" or "the eternal argument" or whatever phrasing you prefer in talking about great books from ancient times to today. Many of the chapters are focused on various time periods, what was going on in that time, and how that was reflected in the literature.
Since completing this book with my kids (the 13, 15 and 17 year olds anyway, plus the 10 year old occasionally sat in), the concepts she brought up are coloring our discussions, not only in literature classes, but also in history, and to some extent in our science discussions as well. We also refer to this book when discussing the sermon on Sunday, or in discussing the Dr. Who episode we just watched. It comes up nearly every day.
The reason I think this book is something every teen family ought to read is that it gives a framework, some common language, that makes it easier to discuss some pretty big ideas. The book is recommended for 8th grade and up, but I think a younger sibling or two can tag along and get a lot from the discussion as well. And it is only $24.95, so not something that will break the bank.
Other people on the Crew reviewed either this book, the Analytical Grammar program, the Junior Analytical Grammar program, or the new Beyond the Book Report materials. I'd definitely recommend that you go check out some of their reviews.
I'm not actually required to write a review, as I get these materials as part of my job. When I love a product and have some time, I do write up a review because I want to. I'm including the below disclaimer just because.