Wednesday, October 5, 2016

We Just Love Reading Picture Books about History {Four Books Reviewed}

We are book lovers in our home, and also history enthusiasts, so we were excited by the opportunity to review four "If You Were Me and Lived in..." titles brought to you by Carole P. Roman and

Who is Carole P. Roman?

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and}

Carol P. Roman is a mom who took a dare from one of her sons to write a book and has since gone on to author over 35 children's books and to win over 100 awards for both her fiction and non-fiction books.

Carol P. Roman's "If You Were Me and Lived in..." series encourages elementary age readers to explore what life would have been like for people that lived in different places during various time periods. Each book in the series focuses on a specific historical location and time, introducing readers to the clothing, food, education, games, religion, etc. that were common to day-to-day life.  There are currently eight titles in the series that bring readers around the globe from Asia to Europe to America.

Carol P. Roman also has authored series on geography, books for older readers, and more.  Bonus:  she offers free worksheets to go along with some of her books on her website for those that benefit from those sorts of things.

{Disclosure:  Some of the links which follow are affiliate ones.}

Stepping Back in Time

Our family had the delight of reviewing:

Each of these softcover, illustrated historical picture books ranged in length from 56 pages to 97 pages, including extra materials like glossaries, and were eagerly read or listened to by my children.

When I was preparing to write this review, I asked each of my children if they had anything they thought I should share about the series in general.

My oldest, 10, who read all the books by himself and some with me said:

They are really good books.  I like in the back how they have famous people or gods from the different eras. I also like the illustrations in the books.  Out of all the books in the series we have, I like the ones (illustrations) in the Renaissance the best. They are clearer and more realistic.  The other ones look like watercolors.
 It's also good that the books get a little bit of each part of history in them - the clothes, the names, the homes,.. So, they are good for if you are studying a place just in general, but if you want more certain topics, about one part of a country's history, you'll have to look for other books.

My daughter, nine, said:
I liked these books because they helped me imagine I lived in the places.  They told me about, in general, what life was like: what people eat, a feeling of what they speak like, their houses, their clothes, their faith...  When we first got these books, I asked my mom, 'Mom, can you read the new books?' every night.  I liked having Mommy read these things to me!

I will add that my daughter certainly did like these books and ask me to read them daily during bedtime reading, which came as a surprise to me.  For, although she likes history as much as my boys do, she rarely asks for historical reading as bedtime picks.  I think the fact that this series helped her imagine life through the eyes of a child without being so much about war (like so many other history books seem to be) appealed to her.

My youngest, at six, also enjoyed the books and surprised me with his comment:

I loved these! I did not like the illustrations in some as much, but in all of them, I liked the stories.

The reasons my youngest's comments surprised me is twofold:  (1) He is hugely into battles and knights, and, as I just mentioned, these books do not spotlight war (as some books do) as much as they focus on everyday life.  I was (happily!) surprised to see my battle-loving boy happy with more peaceful text.  And (2), my youngest is always the one clambering for the best view of the illustrations when we read stories and, typically, loses interest before his siblings if there are no illustrations.  So, the fact that he was not as interested in the illustrations in a some of these books, but still "loved" them for the text speaks highly of the way information is offered in the series.  Obviously, it speaks to elementary age children (or at least my children.)

The two oldest children also offered some thoughts specific to each book.

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and}

We've read a lot about Ancient Greece in the past, and my children enjoy learning about this time period, so 
If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient Greece (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 1) was the first book they chose to read together.

The book focused on life in Classical Greece in about 350 BC, and, although it did not teach us many new things, it did hold the children's interest and prompted them to ask me to read more from the series.

My oldest said:

I didn't learn much from this book, because I already knew so much about Ancient Greece.  The only thing I really learned about was their houses.

I liked the pictures in this book, because the gods were hidden in the illustrations, like in the clouds sometimes.

My daughter said:

I thought it was disgusting, but cool, that they fed bread that they had wiped their hands on to their dogs.  I knew a lot of other things about Greece already, so I did not learn as much from this book.

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and}

The Middle Ages happen to be one of my youngest's favorite time periods, so this book was a good fit for us, too.  It starts by explaining what a large town in England looks like today and then jumps back to what a rural village would have looked like in the middle ages.  Then, it talks about fiefdoms, private soldiers, knights, peasants, moats, castles, religion, cooking, hunting, farming, medical care, famous people, etc. 

Of course, that's a lot to cover in one relatively short picture book, so this title offered more of en enjoyable review for my children than an any new learning, which my oldest summed up when he said:

I did not really learn much from this book, because my brother is so into this topic that I have read and seen a lot before.  I liked it though.

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and}

Next up was my children's favorite in the series (and mine, too): 
If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient China: The Han Dynasty.

We had Chinese neighbors for several years that began to give my children a window into modern China, but we have not studied much about Ancient China before.  So, this title was the biggest hit among the Carol P. Roman books we read.  It focused mainly on the period of the Han Dynasty and talked about everything from silk production to how folks wore their hair.

My oldest said:

This one was one of the longest books that we got and took us the longest to finish.  I learned a lot about China, because I did not know much about China before.  One thing I learned was that merchants were the lowest class.  I also learned that the Chinese believed certain colors and numbers were lucky and unlucky, which does not make much sense to me, because logic tells us colors and numbers cannot be lucky... I really liked that this book was long and had a lot of new information.

My daughter added:

I never knew that they only used chopsticks to cook in the beginning.  I thought merchants were a higher rank than farmers, but they weren't.

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and}

And, finally, If You Were Me and Lived in...Renaissance Italy (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 2).

This title focused on Florence and explores things such as architecture, art, and music from the eyes of what life would have been like as a child in the family of a wealthy merchant.

My oldest said:
This was the only one that did not have famous pictures in the back, instead it had pictures of the area, like photographs of the art. 

He liked those.  My daughter liked the illustrations, too, noting:

The illustrations are different in this book.  They are brighter.  I like them!

Wrapping up, my oldest wanted to add this thought:

These are good books for starting to learn about places and times.  I would not recommend them for learning in the middle of studies about a place or later on in your studies, because, as I found out, most books share information, so you probably would know a lot of information in the books already. But, the way it is delivered in these books is by a kid living in that time telling you how life is like.  This is not the way most books are written, so I actually kind of like it.  I think other will, too.

And, there you have it.  The "If You Were me and Lived in..." series engages children in initial learning about daily life in different historical cultures.  If you like both history and picture books - as we do - you will likely like this series.

Learn More

My family chose to simply read the "If You Were Me and Lived in..." titles for enjoyment.  However, I can see potential in the books for further studies.  For example:

  • Illustrations of famous people at the ends of the books could be models for timeline drawings.

  • Glossary words could be used for vocabulary exercises, copy work, and other writing/word study endeavors.

  • Children could key into one or two of the topics covered in a book to study in further depth, making the books fabulous for the start of personal research projects or unit studies.

  • Map and globes used in conjunction with the books would tie geography and history together well.

  • The wide variety of topics covered - from food, to clothing, to architecture, to art, to... you name it could open doors for a cultural fair.

Indeed, each of the "If You Were Me and Lived in..." books, though relatively brief, offers a wide array of possibilities for children to learn more about cultures throughout history.  

If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient Greece (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 1)If You Were Me and Lived in...the Middle Ages (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 6)If You Were Me and Lived in...Renaissance Italy (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 2)If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient China: The Han Dynasty and other books in the "If You Were Me and Lived in..." series can be purchased on Amazon for about $14.99 - $20.00 per new softcover book or just $1.99-$2.99 for Kindle.  

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and}

One-hundred Schoolhouse Review Crew families reviewed four of the eight "If You Were Me and Lived in..." titles.  Click through the banner above to read all the reviews!

If You Were Me and Lived in ... {by Carole P. Roman and}

You can also find Carol P. Roman on social media at:

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