This month the boys and I have been turning back a page in time with children’s history books that put kids in the moment! This review of these four titles are brought to you by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com:
- If You Were Me and Lived in…Renaissance Italy (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 2)
- 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…the American West (Volume 7)
- If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient China: The Han Dynasty
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These children’s history books put kids in the moment
I love when I can teach through picture books. Textbook history-style learning is not my thing. Too dry! So I’m grateful for books that help kids think and imagine about the time period they’re studying. Carole P. Roman’s books accomplish this by being written in the second person (“You”). Not many books write from this perspective, but it helps kids feel like the story is about them!
The “you” in each book might be a boy or a girl character, and the reader follows this character through the book as they describe their world: food, clothing, travel, customs, education, housing, government.
Throughout the book, vocabulary words are used in context and have a pronunciation placed in parentheses beside the word.
One aspect I appreciate about each book is how feelings and emotions of the character are mentioned. What things a mother might fear for her children, how a father worked hard, what children liked and didn’t like during that time period.
If you were me and lived in… a peek inside
If You Were Me and Lived in…the Middle Ages (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 6) was especially interesting to my boys, since we are currently studying Medieval Times in our homeschool. This book has a female narrator. We began by learning about the Middle Ages and feudalism, then continue into learning about a girl’s life in a Norman family.
Details about family life, clothing, and even how they went to the bathroom in their big castles keep the story interesting. The character explains how the church informed their family life, how families married and remarried due to disease and land holding advantages, and how children left home early on to learn their profession. This book is a longer one in the series at 76 pages (for the story alone).
The images in this particular title are softly colored, bordering on fuzzy to the eye, but with plenty of details to keep kids engaged. There was a bit too much text for my 4 year old to stay interested for a lengthy reading so breaking this book into 5-7 pages sections worked best for us.
If You Were Me and Lived in…Renaissance Italy (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 2) also goes along with our studies this year, so we read this one next. My boys learned about life as a girl in Florence, Italy during the time of the Renaissance. Life in a palazzo as the daughter of a merchant was exciting and vivid with paintings and socializing and education. Books, coinage, imported clothing – all these rich details that were new for the age are describe for kids to wonder about as they read. Could they imagine never going anywhere but to church as a child?
At just 40 pages, this book was a faster read with less text than the first book. The illustrations are bright and more sharply drawn, so I think they held my boys’ attention better.
If You Were Me and Lived in…the American West (Volume 7) takes the reader through a child’s life living during The Great Migration of 1843. You travel on the Oregon Trail and live as a settler in current-day Willamette Valley, Oregon. One of my favorite features is how the book details, “Your name could have been Clarence or Ethan if you were a boy…. Lucy or Minerva for your sister’s name.” It’s little details like kids’ names from the time period that children will latch onto.
Through the eyes of a young boy, kids learn what was packed into a Conestoga Wagon for the long trip, chores kids did along the trail, and the challenges of traveling through mud and dust. At the end of the book is a section with pictures and details of real people that lived during the era, like Annie Oakley, Daniel Boone, and of course, Lewis and Clark! A glossary reviews vocabulary words.
This 42 page story was also a quick read, and the illustrations almost comic-book sharp and bright.
If You Were Me and Lived in…Ancient China: The Han Dynasty is told from a boy’s perspective. Kids learn about the importance of the color of clothing in this culture and era, as well as the process of the silk industry. Hairstyles and dress are given much space, and there are many details about the cultural festivals, symbols, and numerology beliefs of the Ancient Chinese. I haven’t gotten to this book yet with the boys, but it had the most fascinating details.
One aspect that I think could be improved is that the illustrations in here are soft and fuzzy, and the printing even makes them look a bit pixelated. My youngest son found them difficult to look at, to be honest, but I think this may be simply a printing error, as they are by the same illustrator as the Middle Ages book which isn’t as fuzzy.
It really is possible to give children a glimpse into other worlds and cultures in a way that is far more exciting than a textbook. Readers are placed in the character of the narrator because of the use of second person writing, and this helps them understand the character’s world a bit better by seeing it through their eyes.
Keep turning the pages back on history for your children, because it is a fascinating story they should not miss out on! And they won’t with these children’s history books by Carole P. Roman.
To see more reviews for these books, click here!
Affiliate links have been used in this post.