Thursday, October 6, 2016

Digging Into History with Carole P. Roman and Away We Go Media {A TOS Review}

We do a lot of reading in our homeschool. Picture books and chapter books make up the bulk of our curriculum. I always love finding new books to go with the subjects we are learning. So, of course, I was thrilled when we were given the opportunity to review four books in the "If You Were Me and Lived in..." history series brought to you by Carole P. Roman and

We were able to choose two books that we were interested in reading, and then we were sent two additional books. This series contains eight books all together, which means we got to review half of them. I allowed the older girls to choose which books they would be interested in reading. Tabitha chose If You Were Me and Lived in...the Middle Ages (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 6). Amelia chose If You Were Me and Lived in...Colonial America (An Introducation to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 4). We were also sent If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient Greece (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 1), and If You Were Me and Lived in...the American West (Volume 7). There are also books that focus on Renaissance Italy, Elizabethan England, Ancient China, and Viking Europe. 

All of these books are designed to take you and your child back to these specific times in history. They make the child feel as if they are a part of the story and show what life would have been like for them and those around them.

Let's start by looking at If You Were Me and Lived in...the Middle Ages

Tabitha chose this book because we have become interested in medieval times thanks to our interest in Merlin and King Arthur through a couple of different television shows we watch. Though not the exact same time period, I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn about real knights and castles and such.

The book starts out with a look at what a small town in England looks like now, and then moves us back in time to what a rural village would have looked like at the end of the first millennium. The book explains how the Middle Ages began after the fall of the Roman Empire. It explains how the empire was divided into small kingdoms and how these kingdoms were ruled. We learn who the knights were and how they related to the rulers in this feudal system. We delve into the lives of the peasants and the land owners. The reader takes the role of a daughter of a knight, personalizing the story. The child can imagine herself living in a bailey castle surrounded by a moat, with all the different buildings within the castle. The author does a wonderful job describing the purpose of the different parts of the castle and what they would have looked like. You also get a glimpse at social life, food that was eaten, religious life, medical care, education, professions, and clothing worn.

Though we are first focusing on the life of the daughter of a knight, the author does not neglect sharing about the lives of the peasants, and how hard live would have been. After reading this story, you really do have a picture of what it was like to grow up in the Middle Ages. 

I appreciated that the book ends with a Famous People from the Middle Ages section and a glossary.

The above pages are representative of all the pages in the book. There is text on the left side of the page with full color, soft pastel illustrations on the right. These pictures take up the entire right page plus they flow into the left page. Being 97 pages long, the Middle Ages book is the longest of all the books we received. Tabitha was able to read through the book, a few pages at a time, during the review period. I started out trying to have her answer questions that are available on the author's blog, but they were a bit over her head, and were turning a fun reading adventure into a chore, so I decided to let her just read and enjoy the book. When she was finished, I did have her write a short book report on what she found the most interesting and what she learned.

Both Tabitha and I enjoyed learning about the Middle Ages. As I was reading, it dawned on me that my medieval class was one of my favorites in college. This time period really intrigues me, and I was glad to dig into the day to day life of people during this time.

The second book I would like to share about is If You Were Me and Lived in Colonial America. 

I was not surprised when Amelia chose this book to read. We had been learning about American History with our core curriculum and she actually spent part of her summer taking American History books out of the library so she could "study."

Like the Middle Ages story, this book begins with a look at modern times, what London, England looks like today, compared with what it would have looked like in 1620, the year that the Pilgrims came to America. Before we learn about life in the colonies, we get a glimpse at why the Pilgrims came to America in the first place. The book backs up to the 1500s and explains how England's main religion changed from Catholic to the Church of England. It was also explained that there were those who didn't believe the same way as the king and felt persecuted. The author is focusing specifically on those who called themselves Puritans and Separatists.

Again the reader is asked to think of themselves as the child in the family that is being written about. We follow this family as they live for a while in the Dutch Netherlands before setting sail for the colonies on the Mayflower. The story does not give any details on the journey to Plymouth, focusing instead on live in the colonies. We read about the Mayflower Compact, finding a place to live, and the struggles of living in this forbidding, primitive land. We read about how houses were made, learning new words such as daub and wattle. We learn why the place they are living in is called Plymouth Plantation as opposed to a village. We don't just learn about those first days leading up to the first Thanksgiving (which is only briefly mentioned), but talk about the years following as well. I do admit, the majority of the book does remind me of a Thanksgiving story book.

What was confusing to me was the way the story seemed to keep going back and forth between the harder and then more prosperous times. One page talks about the snow-covered frozen earth, while the next page shows a couple of men working on building a house on a grass covered hill, while the next page talks about living exposed to the "cold winter winds for most of that first winter" while the homes are being built. Likewise, one page starts by stating "By the end of the first winter..." while the page before ends talking about the herbs and vegetables being grown in the small outdoor garden.

Having just studied early American history last school year, I unfortunately found the Colonial America book to lack organization and was left wondering about the accuracy of parts of the story. 

Unlike the Middle Ages Book, most of these illustrations contain darker, somber colors, with more defined pictures. Most of the illustrations are on the right side of the page, while the text is on the left side. 

Though, as shown below, there is one double page spread that deviates from the pattern.

Like the other books in the series, the book ends with a section of influential people and a glossary.

The font in the Colonial America book was quite a bit bigger than the Middle Ages book, meaning there was less text on each page. This was perfect for Amelia, as was the length being only 61 pages.

I admit, the Colonial America book was my least favorite of the four books we received.  

The other two books we received were actually quite appropriate for our family, even though we had no say in which books we were receiving. We had just learned about the pioneers heading west during our "summer school" session, so the American West book was a great review. The book on Ancient Greece was a wonderful way to introduce the children to an ancient culture that they have had a bit of an introduction to before, through our brief study in Greek Myths. So, even though I wasn't required to read them to the children, I decided I would.

Let's take a look at If You Were Me and Lived In...the American West:

This book is similar to the Colonial America book in design, with darker colored pages and light colored, larger text. The majority of this book is devoted to the actual journey west by wagon train on the Oregon Trail (one of the trails we learned about this summer). We join a family headed west during the "Great Migration of 1843."  We learned what families might have taken with them on their long journey, and what the days and nights were like during this time. I hadn't remembered learning previously about the two different names for the covered wagons: the Conestoga or prairie schooner, so that was interesting to learn. As with the other books, we learned about the clothes that were worn and the chores that needed done, as well as the foods that were eaten. The last quarter of the book shares about building a new home on their new land and what life was like in Oregon was like as a town grew up around you.

The children enjoyed finding names they recognized in the Famous People from the American West section. I loved the intriguing illustrations in this volume. Many of the pages in this 54 page book had realistic looking backgrounds with bright, bold details that reminded me of stickers being placed on a page. 

Finally, let's take a quick look at If You Were Me and Lived in...Ancient Greece.

Like the rest of the books, we start out with a comparison of modern Greece and Greece in 350 B.C. This book is similar to the Middle Ages book in design. You can tell by the style of the illustrations that the book is illustrated by the same person, with muted, soft pastels. 

Again, we learned a lot about the culture, government, and religion. We learned what people ate and wore, and what their homes looked like. The majority of the pages shared information and then introduced a Greek god or goddess on the bottom of the page. I admit, I hadn't realized how much Greek culture had influenced the Western world, and especially our form of government. 

Unlike the other books, we don't learn about famous or influential people at the end of the book. This time a list of gods and goddesses are shared.

I have to admit, I appreciate that the author uses B.C. instead of the new B.C.E.. 

I liked that each of the books shared examples of what boys' and girls' names may have been back in that time period. We really got a sense of what life may have been like in these cultures. These are great books to help you and your children learn about different periods in history. 

You can find Carole P. Roman on Facebook, Twitter, Good Reads, and Pinterest.

Don't forget to check out the reviews of my fellow Crew Mates. You will find reviews of all 8 of the "If You Were Me and Lived In..." history series brought to you by Carole P. Roman and Just click on the banner below.

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