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Read About History Through the Eyes of Kids Who Were There ( Homeschool Review Crew)

Several years ago, the younger girls and I reviewed a set of books that became known to us as the "If You Were Me" books. They were written by Carole P. Roman and shared the lives of kids from different countries. The girls loved them. So...we were very excited to see a new set of books come up for review for the Homeschool Review Crew.

History for kids

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Brought to you by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com, we received these four books:

History from a child's perspective

The younger girls- Ashlyne (12) and Rachel (11)- and I are studying ancient history this year, so several of these books fit right in with the time periods that we're covering. I put the books in our "book basket" where the girls pick books to read daily for a thirty minute block. Over the past few weeks, the girls have been taking turns reading each of the books. I've also read through them and talked to the girls about them.

If You Were Me and Lived in...Viking Europe

The book is set in Norway in the year 870AD. The narrator of the story is a child who lives in Norway during the time period. At first we don't know if the narrator is a girl or a boy. A few pages in, the narrator talks about what your name could be if you were a girl or what your name could be if you were a boy. And we see a boy and girl in the illustration. Later on, as the narrator is getting dressed and talking about clothing, we can tell he's a boy.

The book walks the reader through everyday life in a Viking village. Many topics are covered, such as what they ate, what their houses were like, their day-to-day work, how society was structured, what clothing people wore, and the religious beliefs of the people.At the end of the book is a section about Norse gods and a glossary of Viking terms which were brought up throughout the book.

If You Were Me and Lived in Ancient China: The Han Dynasty

This book is set in ancient China in 150AD, during the Han Dynasty. The narrator of this book is also a boy. At the beginning of the book, he's telling readers, again, what your name could be as a boy or as a girl, and the illustrations picture a girl and a boy. As the narration continues, we see only the boy in the illustrations, and he talks about his sisters.

The narrator tells about everyday life in China during the time period. Readers learn about the different professions one could have in ancient China (the narrator's father is a doctor), how the cities were laid out, what the inside of houses were like, and what people ate. Readers also learn that the narrator wanted to be a noodle maker, but he had to follow in his father's footsteps because that's what people did in the time period in ancient China. At the end of the book are some famous people of ancient China and a glossary of words from the book.

If You Were Me and Lived in...the Middle Ages (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 6)

This book is set in England in the year 1072. The narrator in this book is a girl named Aalis. Later in the book we learn that she is almost thirteen years old. The book begins with a little history leading up to the Middle Ages. Readers learn about the fall of the Roman Empire and how that led to the period known as the Middle Ages or Medieval period.

The narrator is the daughter of a wealthy family and takes readers through a tour of the Middle Ages from her perspective. Readers learn about knights and castles, what people ate, what people wore, what the inside of the houses looked liked, and what family life is like. We also get a glimpse of how people of different classes might live very different lives when Aalis talks about sitting down at the table in a place of honor by the precious ingredient- salt.

Readers also learn about religion in the Middle Ages and the importance of the church. At the end of the book is a section about famous people in the Middle Ages and their contributions and a glossary of terms from the Middle Ages.

If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient Greece (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 1)

This book is set in Greece in the year 350BC. The narrator is a boy. He gives readers information about the contributions ancient Greece made, such as the democratic system and the Olympics. Readers learn about the gods of ancient Greece and their importance in society.

The narrator tells readers about daily life in ancient Greece- what people ate and drank, what family life was like, and some of the things that well-rounded Greeks learned, such as music. The narrator talks about Sparta, the city-state that trained warriors for battle, what life was like for the wealthy compared to that of slaves, and some of the Greek heroes. 

On most pages, after the information about ancient Greece that the narrator gives, there is information about one of the Greek gods that fits into what the reader just learned about ancient Greece. At the end of the book is a section detailing more about the Greek gods. There is also a glossary with terms about ancient Greece.

Some things I like...

I like that the information comes from the perspective of a child who actually lives in the historical time period. I think that a day-to-day view of life can teach much about a historical time period.

I like the extra information at the back of the book. I also like the included glossary that we can refer to for some of the more difficult terms.

Review of Carole P Roman books

What the girls thought...

The girls were disappointed with these and didn't like them as much as the country books we've read from the author. They read them independently for the most part, so I tried to pin down exactly what they hadn't liked as well and then read the books for myself to see if I agreed.

The books are much longer than the country books we read. I could only find an age recommendation for one on Amazon, and it was 3rd-8th grade. I would agree that they are for upper elementary and middle schoolers. My girls were reading in thirty minute blocks for book basket, and they struggled to complete a book. My thought about the length was, "You're older now. You can read longer books." I'm not sure I convinced them, but the book length doesn't bother me.

Their next complaint was that "the facts are not interesting." This one was a little more difficult for me to figure out. But as I read through the books, I think I caught their meaning. Despite being narrated by a child of the time, some parts of the books read like a textbook. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. But, because we haven't used many textbooks in history, they caught the difference in the language. Again, this doesn't really bother me. But it is a different style than we typically read. And I think that the fact that the narrator just pours out these facts is less inviting than if we were reading a story about a character who was living these things.

The last thing the girls mentioned that bothered them was the fact that three of the four narrators were boys. They said that they couldn't relate because the book was supposed to be "If you were me..." but the character was a boy. Now (1) we haven't read all of the books in the series, and there may be other girl narrators, (2) boys who are reading the series probably think the opposite of my girls and wish all the narrators were boys, (3) statistically more girls will read books from a boys point of view, but boys don't often read books from a girls point of view. All that to say that the narrator might not be a problem for your readers, but my girls suggested there should be two children as narrators, so that readers got both the girl and boy point of view.

Children's history books

This set of books is definitely different than the country books we've reviewed in the past. The target audience is older, and there is much more information in each book. They were good as book basket books for us because they were a good supplement, some extra reading, about the time periods that we're talking about and going to talk about soon. They weren't as big a hit as the country books, but I do think they've had value for the girls to read.

You can see what other Crew members thought about the various books in the set by clicking the banner.

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


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