Kraken Latin for the Logic Years consists of two courses in Latin, Book One and Book Two. Aimed at students in what is considered the “logic stage,”about grades six through eight, Kraken Latin is more challenging than many other Latin programs that are intended for use below high school level. Consequently, both courses can easily serve as full-year Latin courses for high school students as well. While Book One does not require the previous study of Latin, students without some background might find the pace overwhelming. For example, in the first week, students translate from Latin into English, “Male pugnās, sed stō et bene pugnō.” (Translation: “You [sg.] fight badly, but I stand and fight well.”) By the third week, students are translating lengthy sentences from English into Latin and a short story from Latin into English.
While the vocabulary in Book One includes many words encountered in other first year Latin courses, there are some unique words, and the content itself is a bit different. Rather than using sentences based on the writings of Caesar and Cicero, author Natali Monnette bases her content on tales of pirates, goddesses, the Kraken (a legendary Scandinavian sea monster), brave heroes, kings, and queens, and other such stories. There is also some Christian content.
Rather than sticking with simple sentences, Kraken Latin challenges students with more complex sentences that require them to continually think about the various forms of conjugations and declensions. The author tries to lighten the load with a puzzle every so often—a crossword, word search, or other type of puzzle or matching quiz.
Every eighth week is a review unit, but for all other weeks students will learn 20 to 25 words. This is a large amount of vocabulary! Note that many of the vocabulary words are taught in the Latin Primer series from the same publisher. In my opinion, Kraken Latin will work best for those who have used either that series or any other introductory Latin course since students will then already be familiar with much of the vocabulary.
Over the course of Book One, students will learn all five conjugations of verbs (indicative mood, active and passive), all five of the noun declensions, and adjectives up through the third declension. Book Two quickly reviews then moves on to more sophisticated concepts such as additional usages of pronouns, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs; moods; and advanced work with verb tenses. In Book Two, students will work on translating lengthy passages from Scripture and other sources such as Caesar's Gallic Wars from Latin into English.
Since Kraken Latin is written for students at the logic stage, they are given activities and exercises that require them to think and analyze rather than simply memorize. For example, they begin each week’s lesson by thinking up English derivatives for the week’s Latin vocabulary words. However, students also memorize chants to help them remember conjugations and declensions.
Other memory work is included. In Book One students memorize the Pater Noster (The Our Father), the Magnificat, the Nicene Creed, and Psalm 23 in Latin. In Book Two, they memorize in Latin the Ten Commandments, Hymnus IV of St. Ambrose, John 1:1-14, and the prologue of The Aeneid. Scripture passages are from the Vulgate version of the Bible.
While Book One has a guide for classical pronunciation, you are encouraged to choose whatever form of pronunciation you prefer and then stick with it.
Each course consists of a teacher edition and a student book. These are not self-teaching courses; they are intended for presentation by a teacher. Consequently, the teacher editions intersperse pages of teaching notes between the pages showing student activities as presented in the student books. The courses are well organized and easy to follow. They include teaching notes that address the kinds of questions students might ask on confusing issues. While parents or teachers with no Latin background can teach the course, they will have to prepare in advance for each lesson and put in study time of their own to keep up with students. (I think the course probably works best when taught by a teacher who knows Latin.)
Student activities in the teacher edition have overprinted answers. Weekly quizzes and unit tests are included in the teacher edition for Book One and can be copied for the class. For Book Two, you will need to download quizzes and tests from the publisher's website. Book One quizzes and tests can also be downloaded. Answer keys are included in the teacher editions.
Student books have plenty of space to write directly in the books, even for the lengthier translation passages. Both teacher and student books have appendices with chant charts (showing all of the conjugations and declensions learned) and English to Latin and Latin to English glossaries. For each course, the student book includes a “Grammatical Concept Index” in the appendix, while the teacher edition has ten pages summarizing “Latin Grammar Basics” near the front of the book. The author leaves it to the parent or teacher whether or not to cover any of this information before starting into the course.
Upon completion of both volumes of Kraken Latin, according to the author, “This will prepare students to enter into the Poetic or rhetoric stage of their Latin study, where they can work on translating Latin into polished English and appreciating the beauty and form of the original language” (p. viii).Students should easily be ready for a third year Latin course at high school level.
Kraken Latin should be great for students in junior high or high school who have already studied some Latin. It is likely to be a challenging course, even for those with previous background in Latin. Students beginning Kraken Latin without previous background will need to spend extra time mastering the vocabulary and basic concepts, perhaps moving more slowly through the beginning lessons until they have developed some confidence.