Recently we received an awesome collection of books that bring history to life. These books and this review is brought to you by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com.
My first choices both covered periods of U. S. History because Lauren is already familiar with these times. We received If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Colonial America (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 4) and If You Were Me and Lived in . . . the American West (Volume 7). In addition, the company also graciously included 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 Middle Ages (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume 6).
I was caught a bit off guard when I picked up If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Colonial America because I made a bad assumption without looking at the cover of the book. Technically America's colonial days stretch from the 1620s all the way up to the Revolution. The If You Were book focuses on a family that came to America on the Mayflower in 1620, and I was expecting a family in Williamsburg in the mid-1700s. After I reframed my expectations, I was very pleased with the materials. The book included lots of child-friendly details about life in those times -- popular names, foods, clothes, chores, and leisure activities. Lauren and I read the book together, and it took us about half an hour (including some discussion time).
If You Were Me and Lived in . . . the American West tells the story of a twelve year old boy who left Ohio with his family in 1863 to travel along the Oregon Trail. Even though I consider myself fairly knowledgable about American History, I found interesting new facts within the first few pages of this book. I had often heard about brave Americans that traveled along the Oregon Trail in search of more land, prosperity, or whatever. I had never heard that there was record flooding in the eastern U.S. in 1862 which led to harsh the economic conditions that encouraged people to relocate further west. The story chronicles the trip one particular family took in 1863 and continues to share details of their first year or two in the Oregon territory.
If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Colonial America is 64 pages long, and If You Were Me and Lived in . . . the American West is 58 pages long. Both of them have colorful illustrations that would appeal to elementary aged students. The text in these two books was a bit more difficult than I expected, generally testing at a 7th or 8th grade level when I checked the readability. For us, that simply meant that I read the books with Lauren instead of handing them over for her to read independently.
Lauren and I enjoyed reading these two books and fleshing out our familiarity with these two time periods. History truly comes alive when we can talk about what children in that time period wore, what their houses looked like, their typical meals, and even their chores. One thing to note about these books is that they are definitely more fact-based than story based. They focus on a particular child, but they don't necessarily tell a narrative story. They're more like reading a child-friendly encyclopedia article focused on a particular time period than a historical fiction novel.
Lauren hasn't yet studied much world history so I've set the other two books aside until we start some intentional world history studies next Spring. If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Ancient Greece is approximately the same length as our books about Colonial America and the American West -- 54 pages. If You Were Me and Lived in . . . the Middle Ages was significantly longer at 98 pages. We'll read that one over the course of a few days. Both of these books seemed to have more words per page than the ones about America. Although all four books are appropriate for upper elementary students, I think the two with a world history focus would be more appropriate for older students or very proficient readers.
The two If You Were Me and Lived in . . . books about America each cost $14.99. The Ancient Greece one is also $14.99, but the longer Middle Ages book is $19.99. If you're prefer an ebook over a paperback copy, all four of these books are available for Kindle for only $2.99. In addition to the If You Were Me books about historical time periods, Carole P. Roman has also written If You Were Me and Lived in . . . books about different countries (our review of four books) and many other books for children.