Whenever I think about reading a book on another country or culture, the first books that come to mind are by author Carole P. Roman. The Carole P. Roman books and collections are award winning books about lots of different people and places, as well as fiction stories (some with great morals), and we are blessed to review these three this past month:
If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Russia
If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Poland
If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Germany
We were asked which books we might be interested in and these were our top three choices. Why? Because each of these countries were affected by World War II and Miss J has been studying WWII. This gave us yet another literature correlation to our study and I knew for a fact that they were quality literature. In addition to have an easy-to-read text, the If You Were Me series are written from the viewpoints of children and are written in a way that children can relate to them well. As you open each book, there is a map (not drawn to scale but still helpful) of the country, followed by a page with a globe that shows where the country is located. The books are well-researched and a pronunciation guide with definitions are provided with each one to help the readers understand a bit more about the culture. The illustrations are engaging and colorful, enhancing the enchanting text, bringing it all together.
The book about Russia covers a lot of family words, like mother and father. As you read along, words are incorporated naturally. In talking about going to the store, the book mentions the word for a fur hat and that you would use rubles to purchase it. Major landmarks are included such as St. Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, and the Kremlin. Food is not left out and descriptions of borscht, piroshky, caviar, samovar, and more are included. Favorite pasttimes for children are mentioned and include chess, playing with kuklas (dolls), and ice hockey. The new year is a big holiday and much of the details of it are included, from the gift bringer Ded Moroz to the New Year tree, favorite foods and the fortune teller tradition.
This was a simple look at a complex society so it is definitely not comprehensive. Yet, it is a good way for children to get a look at another culture and some of the ways in which children from there are like them and different from themselves. The text itself is not difficult but because there are a number of Russian words with pronunciations included, I would not recommend a child try to read this book alone. Guidance would be greatly beneficial for children under the age of about 10.
The book on Germany actually begins with a bit of history about the country itself, where it and its name originated from. There is also information about the city of Berlin and its importance. Boy and girl names are shared, as well as other family names including mother and father, grandmother and grandfather, and aunt and uncle. The beautiful castle Neuschwanstein is pictured (an actual picture, not a drawing – I like that it shows it accurately this way) and the history is shared. Euros and marks are talked about and why the change was made. Food, of course, is covered including hunger-inducing dishes such as sauerbraten, sauerkraut, dumplings, and apfelstrudel. (This made Miss J ask her daddy to make her some apple strudel and it was yummy!) Activities such as fussball (soccer) and going to Oktoberfest are part of their lives. It closes out with a bit more history and several interesting facts about Germany.
I like that this story contains so many bits of the history of the country, as well as the information on the actual culture that we would expect. Between the history, the food, and all the words, I feel like this is a good book to help someone know a bit more about Germany. The story is engaging and easy to read, though the pronunciations of the foreign words will make it a bit more difficult for a child.
Poland was one that I chose solely due to the involvement of the country in World War II. It is often mentioned so I felt it would be a good one for Miss J to know a bit more aobut. This book definitely did its part for that, without getting so much information that she didn’t understand any of it. One of the fun bits about this book on Poland is that backgrounds of almost all of the pages are actual photographs that have drawings on top of them. This allows the beauty of the country to be seen clearly.
The book, like the Germany book, give a lot of history about the country. From the various names for Poland itself to a legend about how the city of Warsaw got its name, the text is engaging. Because much of Poland’s interest includes famous people, the book includes people such as the composer Chopin and the astronomer Copernicus. Sports are important to these people and so football (pilka nozna), skiing, and sledding are featured, as well as ice hockey. Food is shared through a trip to the grocery store and dinner at the grandparents. From mleko and hleb (milk and bread) to rosol broth, makaron, sledz and pierogi, hunger creeps up reading about the food. Bird watching and a game called “spot the gnome” are fun activities for all ages in Poland.
While each book contains many of the same types of information, each one seems so very different. That is partly because of the different culture of each book but I also feel that Carole P. Roman does a great job of writing the differently, with a slightly different focus that helps you get a feel for things that are important to that culture. For example, Germany seems to have a big focus on history while Poland’s focus in on activity and outdoor sports. This keeps each book in the series fresh and new and exciting, even when you are reading several of them back-to-back.
This is a wonderful series for children to learn more about other cultures around the world and is a great supplement to any country or continent study that you may be doing. As I mentioned, we pulled a bunch that we already had on the shelf for our WWII study and then added these when they arrived at th house. A couple of years ago when we were doing a continent study, I put the various If You Were Me books that went with the continent in the basket along with the other items to help us get a feel for what the continent was like. These are so very flexible and packed with such good information that I highly recommend them.
And one of the best parts – they get read and enjoyed! When these three books arrived at the house, they disappeared into one bedroom and the another and were read by two of the three girls within two hours of receiving them. The other young lady had read them in a couple of days. The appeal of these books is strong and since the content is quality, I don’t mind giving them free rein to read them.
Be sure to read more about the Carole P. Roman books and collections that Homeschool Review Crew families were reading. We have read and reviewed books by this author before, both 2017 and 2016, and always enjoy them. Some of our past reviews include
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