If You Were Me and Lived In…Book Series Review

I have a lovely book series for kids by Carole P. Roman to share with you today.

Carole P. Roman is a well known author who has written over 35 children’s books.  She has won over 100 prestigious awards for her books.  She has written several historical series, cultural series, and fantasy adventure books for kids including:

  • If You Were Me and Lived in- Series with Cultural Focus
  • If You Were Me and Lived in- Series with Historical Focus
  • Nursery series
  • Oh Susannah- Early Reader
  • Captain No Beard Series
  • And More!

We are currently reviewing 4 books from Carole P. Roman’s investigative book series for kids called “If You Were Me and Lived In…” This series has two banches.  One branch is the Cultural focus series (3 to 8 year olds) and the other branch is a Historical focus series (8-12 year olds).

There are a lot of books in these series and she continues to add new ones. A few of the titles include:

If You Were Me and Lived in… (Cultural series)
Australia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Kenya, Mars, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, South Korea, Turkey

If You Were Me and Lived in… (Historical series)
Ancient China, Ancient Greece, the Ancient Mali Empire, The American West, Colonial America, Elizabethan England, The Mayan Empire, The Middle Ages, Renaissance Italy, Viking Europe

The four books our family received for this review are:

If You Were Me And Lived In The American West

If You Were Me And Lived In Australia

If You Were Me And Lived In Russia

If You Were Me And Lived In Israel

 

Here is a little more about each of these books and what we learned. 

If You Were Me And Lived In The American West

This book is softcover, fully illustrated, and contains 54 pages.  It is all about the journey on the Oregon Trail in the 1800’s and living life as a settler in the American West.

The book sets the stage pretending the reader is a 12 year old boy from Ohio in 1843.  The reader goes on a historical journey and learns what his life could have been like if he had lived during this time.  He heads out leaving Ohio on the Wagon Train with his family and others in the Great Migration of 1843 to find a better life in Oregon.

My kids really enjoyed reading this story.  They learned about the covered wagons called “conestoga” wagons. These were like primitive campers made from a large wagon with wooden wheels and an arched canvas top for shelter. These wagons held all of a family’s personal possessions, clothing, tools, herbal medicines, as well as a kitchen and pantry of food such as flour, salt, beans, potatoes, coffee, etc., and were pulled by oxen or horses.

The kids learned that life for kids on the trail was difficult.  They had to walk most of the way for several months, as they traveled about 10 to 20 miles a day, sleep on the ground wrapped in a blanket next to a camp fire, and help with chores without the aid of modern appliances.  Eventually your family arrives at their destination. Then they learn about setting up a homestead, including building a log cabin to live in and barn for animals, making yarn, chopping firewood, and planting gardens and fields, and more.

My kids also read about life for the settlers / pioneers and the Native Americans,  Sometimes these groups got along and other times they were at war with each other. Finally, there is a glossary of words and their definitions in the back of the book as well as a pictures and explanations of some of the famous people who lived during this time in history.

To Further The Learning:

To further what we learned about the American West, we built a campfire in the back yard as those on the Wagon Trail would have done to cook their food and keep warm at night.  Gathering fallen wood, splitting firewood and building a campfire is something we do quite often and the kids always enjoy it.

My kids are familiar with living on a homestead and the challenges and chores farming families have.  I grew up in Kansas and lived on a homestead for many years.  For many years in my youth and then as an adult with my own kids we have lived on a homestead and milked cows, made butter, grew gardens, butchered animals we raised and wild animals we hunted, fished in the rivers and lakes, built barns and fences, and more.   Also while growing up, we could see wagon wheel ruts left by travelers on the Oregon Trail that were still visible in many locations in Kansas.  They were also visible in places we lived in Indiana too.

On the day we wanted to cook some “American West” style foods, it rained the day before and the area we like to sit on large rocks got muddy from the rain.  So we made our food inside and took it outside at the picnic table to do our taste testing.

We tried some dried beef called beef jerkey.

We baked some cornbread.

Our Wagon Trail meal included dried beef, campfire beans topped with spring onion, cornbread, and a cup of coffee (our coffee was really coffee mixed with hot chocolate).

We tried out a second meal made of items that would have likely been on a wagon trail adventure.

This meal consisted of potatoes with meat, beans, biscuits with dried cherry preserves and coffee to drink.

The kids spent an entire afternoon recreating the story in the book.  They built a small model of the old west (wagon, horses, campfire with food and coffee, men with rifles, a river, and a gold mine, etc) on the Oregon Trail.  We looked for our Lincoln Logs to build with, but we could not locate them, so we opted to build a scene using Legos instead and it worked out nicely.

It took a while to build each scene because they built each one from scratch. My favorite thing they created was the wagon.

They built a small campfire and firewood and made coffee and cooked their food.

I thought they did a nice job with the details they came up with.

They even put a fish and a frog in the river.

And one of the travelers caught a fish for dinner too.

They included some details about gold miners too.

We also watched a few episodes of Mystery At The Museum program which features stories about artifacts from America’s past including the Old West. This was a good way to include Dad in on the learning fun because he really likes this show.  These stories are built around articles (boots, hat, gun, wagon wheel, trunk, etc) found in museums across America and explore the famous people and events that occurred in history.

This book was a lot of fun to read.  We plan to do more hands on explorations about the American West soon.

 

If You Were Me and Lived In Australia

This is a softcover 24 page illustrated book.  In this book my kids learned about living in Australia and learned some of the words that refer to their parents, food, games, holiday, and other details of life in their country.

My kids enjoyed reading about Australia.  They learned that kids in Australia eat a sandwhich made of “veggimate” spread on bread, and enjoy playing games of “cricket”.  They also learned their summer season on that side of the world is during our winter and vice versa.  The colorful pictures in the book show various places to visit, the national holiday, the market, swimming and snorkeling on the reef off the coast, and more.

There is also a pronunciation guide with definitions to some specific Australian words in the back of the book to help kids learn about life in Australia.

To Further the Learning:

To further the learning about Australia, the kids colored some pages we found online.  They also watched a nature documentary about animals from the Australian continent and learned about kangaroos, vipers, crocodiles, and more.   Another fun thing the kids did was they watched a movie called Crocodile Dundee.  It is a funny movie from many years ago, but some of the scenes, as well as the accent of the main actor Mitch Dundee, local foods, local words, etc. are specific to Australia and the kids had fun watching it.

 

If You Were Me And Lived In Russia

This is a soft cover fully illustrated 28 page book about life of kids who live in Russia.  In this book kids learn about what their life might be like too if they lived there.

They learn about words they might call their family members, and names of other kids, as well as popular foods, clothing, national New Year holiday, and famous places to visit.

A few of the other interesting things my kids learned about in this book was the kids in Russia enjoy playing out door ice hockey in the winter, enjoy playing chess, and a variation of tag called “fipe” and enjoy playing with Russian nesting dolls called “Matryoshka”.

To Further The Learning:

To enhance the learning with this introduction to what life is like in Russia, we watched a couple of history documentaries available on Youtube. One program we watched was about a family who lives in the countryside on a farm and lives mostly from what they can produce themselves from the land and river near by.  We learned that some farmers in Russia eat a lot of home grown potatoes and homemade bread. We watched another documentary about animals and people who have returned to the site where a nuclear power plant called Chernobyl leaked into the surrounding air, water, and soils and the effects the radiation has had on various living systems over the past several years.   We also watched an episode about how Russian Nesting Dolls are made.  We plan to make some Russian themed art projects later this fall.

We also made a chunky potato soup and ate it with crusty buttered bread.

A point made in the book, that is very different from our family’s beliefs, is the use of “fortune tellers” for predicting or ‘telling” kid’s future during their New Year holiday celebration.  This practice is contradictory to our faith as Christians.  This detail in the book opened up a discussion with our family about why the bible refers to this practice as sorcery and as Christian’s and followers of Yahuah Father God, we don’t participate in fortune telling and sorcery activities.

 

If You Were Me And Lived In Israel

This book is a softcover fully illustrated 32 page book.  In this book, kids learn learn about the country of Israel and the city of Jerusalem, one of the oldest cities in the world.  They learn that people from four different ancient cultures who live in Israel share sections of the city of Jerusalem (Jew, Christian, Muslim, and Armenian) and the richness of their cultures (and history of ancient buildings and events recorded in history), attracts tourists from around the world.

In this book, kids learn about common names for other kids, and words for their parents, grandparents, local foods, going to the marketplace, money, and they learn about typical treats to eat at their grandparents house.  Kids also learn the favorite game to play in Israel is “football” which is called “soccer” in the USA.

This book also includes an introduction to the national Israeli holiday called Purim which celebrates Queen Esther when she saved her people from destruction by evil Haman.  This is one of our family’s favorite biblical stories.  If you are interested in reading about this special woman and the holiday that remembers her great courage in the face of despicable evil, check out the book of Esther in the bible.

There is a clarification I would like to make to this book regarding the Purim Holiday:

The book says that Esther saved her people from “an evil king”.  However, she saved her people from destruction by Haman.  Haman was the Prime Minister, Viser, or “first in command” under King Xerxes of Persia.

Esther was a Jew and was newly married to King Xerses.  Years earlier, her people, the Israelites, had become subjects to the Persian Empire after they disobeyed Father God and he allowed them to be conquered and come under the subjugation and rule of Persia.

Haman was evil and hated the Jews and plotted a scheme to have them completely destroyed.  He especially hated Esther’s uncle Mordecai whom the king cared about because Mordecai had helped save the King’s life and was a good man.  Haman devised a plan to kill Mordecai and all of his people and tricked the king into making it law, but the king did not know it involved Mordecai or Esther or their people.

When Esther learned of Haman’s evil plans to have all her people killed and how he had tricked the King Xerxes, Esther and all of the Jews fasted and prayed. She was afraid for her life, but recognized her unique position and access to the king.  After fasting and praying, and through a series of events Esther was able tell the King what Haman had planned for her and her people.  She was able to expose the trickery and evil deceit of Haman and his intention to have all of the Jews killed through the decree he had tricked the King into allowing into law.  However, after exposing the truth, the King was very angry with Haman and wrote a new law allowing Esther’s people, the Jews, to defend themselves and Haman was arrested and hanged in the gallows that he had intended to use to kill the Jews.  Every year, Purim is celebrated in remembrance of Yahuah (Father God) grace, protection, and provision, and Queen Esther’s courage.

In this book, kids also learn a little about the healing properties of the Dead Sea.  It is the lowest place on the earth that can be traveled to by car.  The water there is so salty, nothing can live in it, yet it brings healing to the body to soak in it and many people travel there to use it as a healing spa.

To Further The Learning:

To further the learning about what life is like in Israel, we watched a few videos, and ate chickpeas (garbonzo beans), learned about barley, vineyards, made unleavened bread with flour, oil, and water, and ate hummus (mashed garbonzo beans, sesame seed past, garlic, lemon juice, salt) with a side of carrots, we ate dates, and drank grape juice.

Israel has currently been in it’s annual grape harvest and we saw pictures of an Israeli vineyard and winery.  We also went to a Middle Eastern style restaurant and the older kids ate sandwiches made with spiced lamb and the younger kids ate spiced chicken on pita bread.

Our family has used a body scrub that contains salt from the Dead Sea, mixed with herbs and oils from Israel.  The salt of the Dead Sea is special and has amazing healing qualities.  I think it would be wonderful to take a trip to Israel and swim in the salty Dead Sea someday.  But did you know, the bible prophesy’s that the Dead Sea will someday hold fresh water and spring forth with fish and new life?  It may sound impossible but it is actually happening now.  There are many Israeli’s recording this event on video and posting the videos to Youtube.  There are places along the shore of the sea, that fresh water springs are beginning to flow and fish can be found living there. Amazing!

We spent some time studying the 10 commandments that are the foundation of the Jewish and Christian faiths.  We focused on the 7th Day Rest called the Sabbath.  Modern Israel celebrates the Sabbath from sundown Friday evening until sundown on Saturday and modern Christians celebrate the Sabbath from Sunday morning until Sunday evening.  But we found as we studied the instructions that neither system was inline with the ancient Israelites, the Jews that were then called Hebrews.

Exodus 31:14
“Keep the Sabbath holy. You have six days to do your work, but the Sabbath is mine, and it must remain a day of rest.”

The kids learned that according to the instructions the Hebrews were given by Father God, the true Sabbath is celebrated on the 7th day according to each moon cycle.  When a new sliver of the moon is seen, the count begins for the 7 days and the pattern repeats 7 days for a total of 4 Sabbaths in a month’s time.  Then it starts over with the sighting of the next new sliver of the moon and then count of 7 days repeat.  This Sabbath day is Holy unto Father God and he first gave these instructions to the Israelites and they are recorded in the bible.  Somehow this information has been lost and is no longer practiced, and instead the 7th day biblical calendar and lunar moon cycle has been substituted for pre-made civil calendars where the 7th day has become a fixed day of the week.

The kids also colored pictures that represent cultural aspects and foods eaten in Israel and foods eaten during the Sabbath.

The start of the New Year is another thing about the culture of Israel that we looked at. There are cute songs on Youtube that teach the kids about the New Year and the other holidays.  When we took a closer look in the scriptures, we saw the bible has the New Year beginning in the spring (March/April) with the sighting of the barely grain being ripe for harvest coinciding with the first sighting of the moon to kick off the New Year and the Harvest of First Fruits.  However, the civil calendar of modern Israel starts the New Year in the fall (September/October).  As we learn more about Israel, and the Hebrews and early Christians recorded in the bible, verses modern customs of Jews and modern Christians, we are learning about the difference in following man made systems and traditions verses following the instructions and calendar established by our creator Yahuah.

If You Were Me And Lived In Israel was the book I was most looking forward to receiving and reading with my kids for this review.  Partly because as Christians, the story of Father God, Yahuah, and his Son is the foundation of our Christian faith and is intimately intertwined with Israel and the Hebrews/Israelites/Jews, and the teachings of the early Christians who helped build the Christian faith.  I would love to travel and visit Israel and see the ancient locations, including Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, that we have read about.

When I explain where Israel is located to my kids, I tell them to think of the Mediteranian Sea as a market place neighborhood culdesac where a huge amount of world trade takes place.  Not all of the neighbors on the culdesac get along and it has been this way through most of history.  The sea is the road for all the ships to bring in their cargo and make stops at all the ports (neighborhood driveways) along the way.   The turn around at the end of the culdesac is where Israel sits, at the far eastern end of the watery highway called the Mediteranean Sea.  The ships enter on the west, then drive their ship toward the east and past all of the neighbors (Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon on the north side of the road.  Moroco, Algeria, Egypt, etc on the south side of the road) before they reach the end of the culdesac at destination Israel where they can load or unload cargo and turn their ship around and visit other neighbors then head back out of the neighborhood and enter the Atlantic Ocean.

Final Thoughts

Each of these books are colorful and full of interesting facts about what life could be like for kids living in various countries and various times in history. These books are easy to read and fun to explore.   These books are fun to read at anytime, and would also be great to include for children doing a country, geography, or history focused unit study.

I plan to build some more unit study activities into our homeschool learning later this fall and read these books again with my kids.  We will also keep these books on their book shelf to read at anytime they are interested.  Over the years, I have learned that kids benefit from what they have learned in books even more when they can be “hands on” and take the learning adventure to a whole new level.  When I get our unit study put together, we will learn more about each country and the people and animals that live there, we will make a recipe, learn a song, play a game, practice speaking the language, read books and watch videos, and include specific related art projects for more wonderful hands on learning opportunities during this school year.

Overall, we enjoyed reading these books.  They were a great way to introduce different aspects of culture and history to young children.  I encourage other families to check into using these books in their homeschool learning adventures with their kids.

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Homeschool Review Crew

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