If You Were Me and Lived in...Culture and History Books for Kids {Carole P. Roman Review}

I have such an interest in books dedicated to history and cultural topics. Perhaps my passion for this has been rubbing off on my son, because he seems to be enjoying them just the same. At times, it can be challenging to find a good cultural or history series that will help keep the interest of children, especially those in the younger age group. Luckily, we've found some that have been working for our family. We have been a fan of Carole P. Roman books and collections ever since last year, when we were first introduced to them and the author, herself, Carole P. Roman. Since then, these books have become a regular resource in my home for early learning.

Carole P. Roman's If You Were Me and Lived In... series is truly wonderful! Rather than throw a bunch of facts and information at you, she uses a unique approach that immerses the reader right into the story. Not only does she use detailed facts and descriptive illustrations throughout the series, but as the title suggests, each book in the collection offers children a chance to put themselves right in the story, as if they were actually part of that culture or had lived during a specific time period in history. This makes the series, not only educational, but fun and engaging, too!

While we already owned several books in the series, we were recently presented with a wonderful opportunity to read a few that were new to us.


History Book Series

If You Were Me and Lived in...the Middle Ages has to be the largest book in the series that we currently own. When I say "large," I mean it has ninety-seven pages worth of information about what it was like to live during the Middle Ages. Wow! There is so much to take in with this book. The illustrations are pretty neat, because they are presented with pastel colors and have an almost cartoon likeness to them. This is definitely a nice feature that will appeal to younger children. Readers will learn how the Middle ages began around the late 400s and continued all the way through the early 1400s. Lords had ruled over most of the areas, and those who worked for them such as knights were offered high status for their protection services. There were also pheasants, both free and un-free, who worked the land, day after day.

The narrative is told as if the reader is the daughter of a knight. There are plenty of interesting facts and information about living in the Middle Ages, even things that I wasn't initially aware of. For instance, meals consisted of breakfast in the morning, dinner (mid-morning), and supper at around 5:00 pm. Many women were considered to be weak if they ate breakfast, so as a sign of proving their maturity, they would wait until dinner to eat. We found it fascinating to learn the medical customs that were used during that time. The church helped care for individuals who got sick, since both priests and nuns knew how to use medicines to heal people. It was also interesting to learn the origins of the traditional red and white barber poles and how they came about. Did you know that haircuts and shaves weren't the only services that a barber offered? They actually performed surgical and dental procedures to those who weren't able to afford a traditional doctor. It was also neat to hear that folks enjoyed a good game of backgammon as much as we do, today. As an added bonus, the back of the book offers two additional sections to help children learn even more about the Middle Ages, these include mini-biographies of famous people who lived during that time, as well as a helpful glossary to better understand names and terms from that era.

Last year, we had the opportunity to read the author's If You Were Me and Lived in...Elizabethan England. When I had discovered that she also wrote If You Were Me and Lived in...Renaissance Italy, I knew it was one that we should also pick up, since it goes hand in hand with that whole time period. Since we already learned about this era from an English standpoint, it was fun to revisit it, only this time from the perspective of being from Florence, Italy. I really like how this book offers a glimpse of  how both the lower and upper classed lived. The narrative is told as if the reader was the daughter of a merchant. Due to the exploration of other areas around the world and the discovery of new products from these places, merchants were considered a new class and one that was actually considered wealthy.


We enjoyed learning about the way merchant families lived and the layout of the homes they resided in. It was surprising to hear that the servants lived in the top portion of the house. I had always assumed they lived on the lower levels. The author did a great job at describing the meals they had eaten during those times. Our mouths were watering after reading all the delicious details! It was also interesting to learn a little bit about the origins of a worker's union, since both craftsmen and merchants were to abide by rules that regulated prices. This benefited both the craftsman/merchants, as well as the patrons. Since the Renaissance was a period enlightenment, art and literature became a big deal. New concepts of artistic form were derived. The back of the book offers a handy section that highlights some of artists that lived during that time and their work, as well as the reasoning behind why this was such an important point in history. I appreciated the inclusion of pictures displaying real artwork. A separate section includes several pages of mini-biographies of some of the famous people who lived during the Renaissance, as well as a glossary that highlights various names and terms from that era.

Cultural Book Series

Being a Christian family, I've been eager for my son and I to learn more about the Jewish heritage. We had started doing this by learning some of the traditions and customs of the Jewish people, as well as their major holidays and celebrations. With Passover coming up, we've also been diving into the symbolism behind the Seder. When I had discovered If You Were Me and Lived in...Israel, I knew it would be a wonderful resource for our ongoing studies–and I was right. This is actually the first book that we personally own from the author's cultural series. It was a lot of fun to read, and reminds me of the historical If You Were Me and Lived In... books, in that it puts the reader right into the story as if they were the main character. In this one, we follow the life of a little girl who lives in Jerusalem. I like how the author throws ideas of what the readers name might have been whether they were a boy or girl (all of the other books that we own in this series also do this).

We had fun tagging along while the main character went shopping with her Ima (mother) and Abba (father) at the shouk, an open market offering all kinds of products from food to clothes. I like that there was also a mention of the Dead Sea, which piqued my son's interest. Of course, our favorite part was reading about all of the mouth-watering foods that were served at the grandparent's house. We love Mediterranean food in our home, so needless to say this made our stomachs growl, especially when the baklava was mentioned. Yummy! While I would have liked to see a few more holidays added to this book, perhaps Hanukkah and Passover, I was happy to see Purim was mentioned. I always enjoy reading the Book of Esther with my son, so it was nice to have him learn a little bit about how the Jewish people honor the Queen's memory. The back of the book also offers a handy glossary and pronunciation guide to help children learn various terms and how to properly say them. 


While there is a large amount of text to be read, particularly in Renaissance Italy and Middle Ages, it is written in a way that's very easy for children to follow along to. The reason why I don't mind a lot of text, especially in these books, is that there is so much information to learn. To take away from that for the sake of having less text to read, would not do these books justice and completely eliminate the comprehensive learning experience that comes from reading this series. I say, the more text, the better. This means that my son is learning even more about the topic he's reading about. 


What I love about the books in Carole P. Roman's If You Were Me and Lived In... series is that they are so versatile. They can be used for simple reading to learn about any one culture or period in time. My son loves sitting with me as we read all about what it's like to live in a particular era or country. You can also take it one step further and incorporate them into a homeschool unit study, which is exactly what I intend to do with these in the future. The author has included so many great facts and tidbits, it's really easy to expand my child's educational experience by creating a complete lesson on any one of these topics. Even parents will find new information in the books that they may not have yet known about. One of the neat things about homeschooling is that sometimes the parent is also learning something new, right there along with their children.

Whether your children love reading about different cultures, countries, and periods of time, or you would like for them do an expansive lesson in this area of study, I highly recommend the If You Were Me and Lived In... book series by Carole P. Roman.

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Carole P. Roman books and collections {Carole P. Roman Reviews}

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