Anyone that reads this blog will know that I just love to read, and that I read a variety of different genres. You might also be aware that I think reading is very important and that children should be encouraged to read as much as possible. But getting children to pick up a book to read can sometimes be a challenge, although I do believe they just need to find the right type or topic of book to spark their love of reading. The only way to find what type of book suits them more is to read books on lots of different topics.
As I also believe that education is extremely important, books that also offer some education value to children are of great value to me. One series of books that I have enjoyed over the years is the If You Were Me and Lived in… series by Carole P. Roman.
Carole P. Roman is an award-winning author and has written a fabulous series that looks at different countries and their cultures in the If You Were Me and Lived in… series. They started off introducing children aged 4-8 years old to other countries and cultures and later expanded, adding in ancient civilisations, suitable for 8-11 years old.
For this review, we are looking at my own country, England, but not as it is now but in the year 1072 (and no I wasn’t born then). This was the Middle Ages, or medieval times, the time between the fall of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance. We are going to look at If You Were Me and Lived in… The Middle Ages and the day-to-day life of its people.
The book begins with an image of what a typical small English town would look like today, turn the page and it shows what a small English town would have looked like in 1072, nearly 950 years ago. These two images shown the vast differences between the two time periods.
The Roman Empire, who ruled a good part of Europe including Britain, collapsed in 476 causing Europe to descend into feudalism, small kingdoms controlled by kings and warlords. This is where all the fun begins, where the creation of mercenary protectors, or what we would call Knights, how the rich controlled the land worked by the poor peasants, how castles were built and of course crippling taxes that were imposed on the poor.
As you read through the book, you will learn about fiefdoms, feudal holdings and feudalism, deamesnes and serfs. You will also learn about castles and moats, popular children’s names of the time, marriage, what clothes they wore, art, food, occupations, class society, health, currency, sport and games, entertainment, religion and education.
At the end of the book there are some pages about famous people of the Middle Ages, some like William the Conqueror and Joan of Arc that you may have heard of as well as some more obscure people that you may not have heard of such as Clovis and Hildegard of Bingen. These all have a short biography paragraph each of who they were.
There is also a glossary at the back that lists the unfamiliar words, their meaning and child-friendly pronunciations.
Overall, If You Were Me and Lived in… the Middle Ages in an excellent book to take a short look at what life would be like if you lived in the Middle Ages in England. It invites the reader to immerse themselves in the history of over 900 years ago. It shows how life could be very difficult if you were in the wrong class in society and had very little money.
The Illustrated page that accompanies each page of text is excellent. Mateya Arkova has created a visual delight with a cartoonish world in bright pastel colours and curvy lines, reminiscent of a watercolour painting, that beautifully portrays what is happening within the text.
It is suitable for children age 8 and upwards, although I enjoyed learning a lot from it, as there is a lot more text than in the world culture books in the If You Were Me series.
On its 98 pages, there is page after page of captivating snippets of information about the Middle Ages in England and how they lived so that children can learn what life was like then (and probably ask if their parents where alive then).
RRP: £12.99 (Paperback)