That lovely blonde right there is not I, and that's because this review is brought to you by Carole P. Roman and Awaywegomedia.com. Thanks to Mrs. Roman, I am able to introduce you to *four* book from the "If You Were Me and Lived in..." series!
In 38 pages of softcover text (excluding two pages of "Who's Who in Elizabethan England" and a six and a half page glossary), Carole P. Roman hits all of the high points of life in late 16th century England. You find out what the average young person would wear and eat, and how and where she would work and go to school (or not). I studied this time period extensively in college (history is one of my undergraduate degrees), and Mrs. Roman does a great job cramming a ton of information into such a short book! It's really quite impressive. If you want to do more with this book, or with any of her others, she has supplementary material on her website, meaning that you can turn these books into unit studies and the like if you want to!
Going slightly out of order, and going back in time, If You Were Me And Lived In...the Middle Ages (An Introduction to Civilizations Throughout Time) (Volume Six) is up next. This book is MUCH longer than the previous one I discussed. It comes in at 76 pages of DENSE text. There are still charming pictures on every page, but there is A LOT of text, as well as the same kind of comprehensive glossary as in the previous book. While there is still great information in this book, I didn't like it nearly as much as the one on Elizabethan England. For one thing, there were numerous spelling and punctuation errors.
Some errors, like the transposition of letters in the word "dais" (spelled dias in the book) are easier to understand than others. There is more than one sentence fragment in the book that had me rereading entire sections of pages trying to figure out what was being said. One particular error had my kids and me in stitches: “A boy called a turnbrocie constantly turned the slab of meat so that it
roasted evenly. Smaller spits cooked ducks, chickens, geese, swans, and doves.
The fireplace was big, so he could stand up in it and cook was known to cook
oxen at the same time.” My kids burst out laughing when I read this sentence.
They must have gone through a lot of turnbrocies in the Middle Ages! Errors like these aren't as significant, though, as the factual errors in the book. Mrs. Roman defines a relic as something a saint owned or touched. This is true. Such relics are not the objects of pilgrimages, though, as stated by Mrs. Roman. The relics that were (and are) the objects of pilgrimages are the saints themselves (either the bodies of the saints - their tombs - or parts of the remains of the saints)! For example, perhaps the most famous pilgrims of all, those in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, are on their way to Thomas Becket's tomb. In another part of the book, heresy is similarly misdefined.
I readily acknowledge that there are plenty of readers who likely wouldn't notice many of these errors, but given that the Middle Ages were a time defined by adherence to Catholic traditions, I think it is very important to get all things related to Catholicism right. To the extent that the book on Elizabethan England required mention of religion, Mrs. Roman did a great job handling the subject.
This was my least favorite of the books we received, only because my interest does not lie with Asian history. My background is in Western Civilization, and the only Asian history I really ever had was studying the history of science and Chinese contributions to it. Because of that, I learned a lot from this book! Like the rest of the books that Mrs. Roman writes, the book tells the basics about life in this time period - what is eaten, where and how people live, and how people dress. Also, as with the other books in the series, there are supplementary materials available on the author's website.
This book was utterly charming to read. It made me want to go back and reread The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone, a book I first read in junior high (a fictionalized biography of Michaelangelo) which made me fall in love with this time period and with this part of the world. Unlike the problems I had with the Middle Ages book, this one wasn't rife with errors. The only thing I didn't understand about this book was some of the pronunciations in parentheses. The pronunciation for "renaissance" didn't, to me, actually tell one how to pronounce it (for either of the two accepted pronunciations of which I'm aware). The given pronunciation for the word "florin" wasn't one of which I'm aware, nor could I find it in the dictionary. I had several professors in college who had occasion to say that word (medievalists), and none of them pronounced it the way that Mrs. Roman says it should be pronounced.
Again, I do realize that most people who read these books won't care about such details, but I am approaching them from the background of someone who studied this time period extensively both in college and afterward. Anytime I am reading something to my kids and I have to stop to correct the text or to verbally annotate it, that's something I am going to note in a review. It's something I would want to know before I bought it myself. Overall, these books are adequate and they make nice read alouds. As always, don't just take my word for it; click the banner below to see what other Crew members had to say about these and other Carole P. Roman books.