Thursday, September 14, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew: Carole P. Roman Books

Carole P Roman Blog

My goal has always been to provide my daughter with a literature rich environment with overflowing shelves containing high-quality books to read. We were recently blessed with the opportunity to review four books written by Carole P. Roman. We chose to review physical copies of If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Ancient Greece and If You Were Me and Lived in . . . the Middle Ages, because of my daughter's interest in both of the historical time periods. The author also graciously sent us two additional mystery books to review. We received a third book from the Historical series titled, If You Were Me and Lived in . . . the Ancient Mali EmpireOh Susannah: It's in the Bag was also sent as part of our package. I already own several of Roman's books and couldn't wait to add more of her book titles to our collection especially books from the Historical series.   

All About the Author
Carole P. Roman is an award-winning children's book author. She has written numerous non-fiction and fictional books for all ages. She is well-known for her five popular children's book series:
  • Oh Susannah Series: Early Chapter Reader Books
  • Bedtime Stories
  • Captain No Beard Series
  • If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Cultural Series
  • If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Historical Series
Carole P Roman

The first three books are from the If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Historical Series intended for children ages 8-15. They are extremely informative and chocked full of fascinating facts. They follow a similar format. The books are told in narrative story format where the child can imagine herself or himself as the main character. He or she can experience the historical time period from the child's point of view. The book is told from the child's perspective making the character seem more relatable. The main character's life becomes reality for the reader as they imagine themselves traveling back in time adventuring through the location and historical era. Each book can be used as an introduction to a historical time period or ancient civilization.

The books from the If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Historical series all end with a section about Famous People relevant to the historical era and a Glossary of Vocabulary Terms. There are approximately 5-14 pages in each glossary section. The glossary consists of a list of meaningful and important words related to the text and time period. These words were helpful in understanding the meaning of words within the context of the story and definitely helped us understand the time period better. You can easily extend each study by asking your child to research a particular historical figure. Then, they can complete a notebooking page or biographical report at the culmination of the book or era study. You could also require the child to verbally narrate several pages of the book at a time to check for understanding.
Gods & Goddesses of Ancient Greece
Glossary of Terms

read three of these books with my daughter, Alyssa (Age 9) for educational and entertainment purposes. She is an avid, advanced reader who works at a 4th-6th grade level. We used the books as supplements to her summer History curriculum. The books reinforced and enhanced her learning. We're revisiting the Middle Ages and she REALLY wanted to learn more about Ancient Greece. 

Alyssa asked me to read to her more often. I read once during the afternoon and then again in the evening for about 15-35 minutes each session. We read about 5-20 pages at a time so that she could retain smaller chunks of information better over several sessions. 

Her STRONG interest in the Middle Ages and Ancient Greece historical time periods was evident as she read through the books. Her eagerness to continue reading and excitement about the story was contagious. She's been intrigued with History lately which is not my favorite subject to teach. Therefore, I want to capture and maintain that curiosity for as long as I possibly can with engaging literature which is one of the reasons why we were thrilled to review the following two books from Roman's If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Historical series   

Let me tell you about our experience with the If You Were Me and Lived in . . . the Middle Ages book. The 97-page book contains whimsical colorful illustrations that dance across every other page. It discusses the Medieval Times or Middle Ages which began in the late 400's until the Renaissance time period in the early 1400's. 

The story is told from from Aalis's perspective. My daughter, Alyssa, imagined herself as the main character. Aalis is the daughter of Theobald de Rouen who is a knight or soldier in William of Normandy's army living in Rouen near France. He was given land and his status was raised when he helped William invade England. This meant that he was treated more like a noble with privileged status. 

During this time after the Roman Empire fell apart, there was a division of the empire into smaller kingdoms or feudal holdings. This was known as Feudalism. The social class structure was further divided as well. The book also discussed occupations, children's names, family life, housing, diet, customs and traditions, clothing, daily routines, religion and the church, responsibilities, currency, entertainment, medicines, and so much more. 

The book's descriptive language allowed us to visualize the rooms of the family motte and bailey castle. Alyssa felt bad that the servants slept on the floor in the great hall on piles of uncomfortable straw while "her" parents slept in the solar room on a bed with at least three mattresses. She wished that her parents would have been nice enough to share their soft mattresses with the servants.

The author gave clear explanations of the clothing worn for both females and males. My daughter noticed that the little girl was wearing a chaplet or wreath of flowers. She remembered making a similar one last year during her Medieval study. 

She disliked the fact that girls had to marry at a super young age. In the story, Aalis was 13 and a marriage was around the corner. She couldn't understand why the parents would want their child to get married at such a young age. She also disapproved of the fact that girls could not go to school unless they went to a convent school with nuns. She said she would hate it if someone told her she couldn't go to school to learn. Thankfully the step-mother in the book taught Aalis how to read.   

Needless to say, we also had an interesting conversation after she looked up the word garderobe in the Glossary. She realized the meaning of the word and the purpose of this stone-seated garderobe which emptied directly into the moat. YUCK!  

Seating arrangements at the table were based on your importance to the household or your status. If Alyssa lived during this time as the main character, then she would sit near the salt or "white gold" on a raised platform by her parents indicating she was an important person. She would eat pike and carp on fasting days as commanded by the church on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. She thought that it was odd that only weak women and children ate breakfast when today breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. Other days she ate many types of meat and poultry. She also couldn't believe that dinner and supper were both served on a trencher (large piece of bread) which was later given to the poor as food. She had no desire to eat after someone else! She found out that peasants often ate only one meal a day called pottage which was a mixture of grain, water, and occasionally vegetables if they were available. Alyssa made a comment about how she wouldn't be able to drink mead in our society today, because it was brewed ale mixed with honey from the castle's beehives. 

I learned so many new factoids with my daughter. Alyssa and I learned about a technique doctors used to treat illnesses called blood-letting. A person's forearm was cut and bad blood was allowed to drain from their body in order to rebalance the four main humors. Apparently these fluid humors affected a person's personality and behavior. Payment for services were given in the form of minted coins. She said the their beliefs about sickness didn't make any sense. Furthermore, Alyssa was thankful that she didn't live during this era and that she would prefer the help of Old Edith, the midwife herbalist over blood-letting. 

A detailed description of the five basic social classes of people was included in the book. Alyssa learned about the king and his family, the nobles and landowners, knights or soldiers, the clergy, and about the unfair lifestyle of the peasants. An interesting fact Alyssa learned was that one sibling from many wealthy families would be sent to join the church as a priest or nun. Religion had an huge impact on your life in the Middle Ages. You were encouraged to pray five times a day and to attend church on Sunday where mass was given in the Latin language even if you didn't understand it.    

While reading this book, we took a field trip to Medieval Times to experience the tournament activity described in the book and to hear a knight explain the hawking process. The knight discussed the use of his falcon for hunting smaller animals just like Aalis's father did in the book. During the Middle Ages this event lasted four days. We only participated in the event one evening. Knights tested their courage and skill with archery, jousting, and sword fights at these tournaments. We saw many costumed knights jousting and participating in sword fights which amazed my daughter. She made several connections and heard many vocabulary terms that evening which were mentioned in this book. The gentleman that served our delicious meal was a squire who was later seen in the arena taking care of the armor, equipment, and horses as stated in the book. Alyssa saw the suit of armor worn by knights as they held their long lances. The book correlations were astounding! I wish I could tell you more about this book, but I really want you to read it yourself. We were impressed with the depth of the material covered.     

A few of the famous people mentioned from the Middle Ages at the back of the book were William the Conqueror, Charlemagne, Joan of Arc, Clovis, and Bede. Children could easily research the importance of these individuals and create a timeline showing their relevance or place in History. 

My daughter summarized what she learned using a 3-2-1 Exit Card after reading this book independently and with me. A 3-2-1 exit card usually offers the child the chance to write 3 things learned, 2 interesting facts, and 1 pondering question.

Books by Carole P Roman

Alyssa's second favorite book in our package was the If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Ancient Greece book. The short 54-page book begins with a comparison of Greece today and what it looked like in 350 B.C. The book discusses the location of Greece in southeastern Europe giving history about how it was the first advanced civilization with one of the oldest cities known as Athens. A simple map is included later in the book depicting several city-states in the area. Vivid pastel colors were utilized in the gorgeous illustrations. 

I love that the book shares possible names of the children living during the historical time period. For example, "Your name could be Alexandros or Linus if you were a boy. They might name your sister Melitta or Theodora." The wording also helps the reader imagine themselves as the character. Alyssa didn't recognize any of the names and said that they weren't popular names in our society today. 

Furthermore, the book explains the Greek's political system called demokratia or ruled by people which is the foundation of our governmental system today. One book feature I greatly appreciated was that it offered pronunciation helps or guides in parentheses which makes reading more difficult words easier. 

Information about Greek gods and goddesses including but not limited to Zeus Hera, Hestia, Demeter, Athena, Aphrodite, Poseidon, Hestia, and Ares are scattered throughout the pages and weaved into the story when appropriate. They can easily be spotted, because the font is italicized. These gods and goddesses can be researched further at the back of the book too. For example, information about the Greek god of war known as Ares was mentioned when the author discussed the use of slavery and battles against foreign invaders. Greek households had up to 3 slaves or prisoners of war. They worked on farms, mines, and in trade. Slaves were an important part of the economy in Greece. 

Did you know that they honored the Greek goddess of the home, Hestia, by NOT allowing coals in fire pits or hearths at home or in the open fireplace for all citizens in the city to be extinguished. This always kept the house warm and gave them a place to cook. 

My daughter said she wanted to live during the Ancient Greece time period, because their diet sounded delicious. She would be fed four meals a day which would consist of bread, cheese, olives, figs, grapes, lentils, fish, and barley. She would never be hungry. She was surprised that children could drink watered-down wine at meals. You could not drink plain water because of diseases so everyone mixed wine with it to kill the harboring germs. She also made a comment about how rude it was for the wealthy fathers to eat formal meals separately from the mother. She couldn't help but think, "Did he think he was better than everyone else?" He sat comfortably on a fancy cushion eating with one hand as if he were the king.   

Speaking of citizenship, we found out that girls were NOT considered citizens and that their responsibility was to stay at home and learn how to run a household. Now that doesn't seem fair - does it? Boys would be taught at home until age 6 where they continued their studies in science, math, music, and debate at school.

I couldn't possibly share all of the wonderful detail-oriented facts found in this book with you today so let me sum it up. We also learned about their language, religion, housing, grooming routines, trade and the economy, transportation, Olympics and other forms of entertainment, family member roles and responsibilities, and foods eaten. The book also discusses the clothing worn such as chiton, peplos, and togas. 

I gave my daughter a map work assignment related to the topic. I printed a map of Europe online using a paid subscription website so that Alyssa could identify and color in the location of Greece. We discussed how places around the world change over time.
Books by Carole P Roman
Locate Greece

My daughter read the If You Were Me and Lived in . . . the Ancient Mali Empire independently during a long road trip. Alyssa read aloud sections of interest to me while I drove. She shared her thoughts about several parts of the story. I later skimmed through the contents for the purpose of this review.

The book follows the same format as the other two books in the If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Historical series. The book describes religion, types of homes, clans and government, societal castes, economic trade, education, family, professions, customs and traditions, clothing worn, foods served at mealtime, forms of entertainment, and more.       

This softcover 77-page picture book is jam-packed with history from the very beginning. It stated that the Mali Empire was known as the Mandingo Empire from around 1230 to the early 1600's. It was an empire of power and trade. 

The story was told from the perspective of a girl from a wealthy family living in the capital of Niani. Her father was a general in the army who directly served Mansa Musa and was head of his clan. Mansa Musa was another name for king or emperor. A large section of the book was dedicated to the history of the Mandinka people as told by her grandfather, the griot, who captured the attention of crowds. History was told by a storyteller with a good memory. This was relevant, because there was NO written language at the time.    

We discussed the fact that Islam and Muslim were the two main religions practiced during the historical era even though the ruler encouraged all religions. Palaces were being converted to mosques where Islamic people could pray. Do you know why mosques were topped with ostrich eggs? They were believed to bring good fortune and fertility.   

My daughter was shocked by several customs during the time period. She learned that girls would have arranged marriages and be ready to have children around the age of 12-13. She wants the ability to choose her own husband. She also believed they were way to young to have children and get married. She thought it was interesting that a boy wanting her hand in marriage would bring three kola nuts to her father to ask for permission. They were given as a sign of respect or as a gift. The glossary and book define a kola nut as a nut from a small evergreen tree in Africa. It is a bitter fruit with pale flesh that gives people energy and makes them alert. The father and possible son in law would argue about the number of nuts he would give for her hand in marriage. A decision of ten was the agreed amount even though a basket was brought to the wedding. She said the custom reminded her of our custom when a man asks a father's blessing for his daughter's hand in marriage. 

Girls stayed home with their mothers to learn how to be good wives and mothers. Alyssa wanted girls to also have the same opportunity as boys to go to school or learn a trade. She believed that women could still be good wives and mothers and still go to school. She loved the fact that Mansa Musa offered a free education to students in the Ancient Mali Empire.

Alyssa giggled when she saw a picture of a young toddler playing outside naked. No inappropriate images were included in the book. She just thought that it was strange that he was allowed to go outside without clothes on in front of all the people. As she gets older, she'll learn about other cultures where this could be the norm.  

She learned about foods eaten in Mali such as rice, millet porridge, millet pancakes, bouille, grilled captaine and tinani fish, goat, lamb, chicken, and baobab tree fruit. Rice symbolized wealth. Poor people ate only millet, but the main character always had rice available. 

Alyssa was surprised that salt was the main good traded in the marketplace where haggling took place, because no minted coins were produced. Salt was of great importance to the people of southern Mali where the desert heat pounded down on you. Salt replenished minerals lost after sweating. Alyssa encouraged me to haggle at the grocery store in hopes for lower prices.        

Several famous people in the Mali Empire were listed at the back of the book including Kongo, Inari Kunate, Sologon, Muhammad Ibn Battuta, Sankar-Zouma, and Abu Ishaq Ibrahim Al-Sahili (try saying that five times). The pronunciation guide was most helpful when trying to pronounce important names as seen above. 

This book was Alyssa's least favorite book from our package. She said it wasn't as interesting as the others in the series and she didn't like the illustrations as much. The use of the color yellow dominated the book. The historical narrative was very different from anything she's ever read before which is why I think it was her least favorite book. She was unfamiliar with the content which led to confusion. One reason why I was actually thankful we received this book was because we learned new information about a culture and empire we've never studied. This makes my daughter more aware of cultural differences in the world.

The Ancient Mali book would be best as a read aloud for younger children rather than an independently read book. I will most likely read the book to my daughter in hopes that her experience will be more positive.
Books by Carole P Roman

Carole P. Roman sent us a chapter reader book titled, Oh Susannah: It's in the Bag. It is a short 34-page early reader chapter book. It contains nine easy-to-read chapters. Each chapter contains approximately 2-10 pages. The last chapter is the longest one in the book. The book has a high glossy cover. There aren't any large illustrations in this book. Each chapter contains small black and white images or thumbnails at the top of the page near the chapter title. My daughter and I both wish the book included more pictures. Check out the fonts, font size, and the varying sentence lengths to determine whether or not this book would be appropriate for your child. The wording may be somewhat complex for early readers in 1st-2nd grade.

I read this book to my daughter at bedtime. We snuggled on her bed to read it together each night. She can easily read this book independently, but I wanted to spend some quality time reading a short chapter book aloud for entertainment purposes at the end of the day.

This is one of two books from Carole P. Roman's most recent series which is intended for children between the ages of 7-12. The story is about a third grader named Susannah Maya Logan. The daily events of her horribly bad day are gradually unveiled. My daughter didn't at first realize that all of the circumstances occurred in the course of ONE day in Susannah's life beginning with that dreadful unfinished Math homework. The story continues with her adding an uneaten banana to her bag which eventually rots over time followed by an unwanted sleepover invitation she'd rather ignore. Then the poor girl stuffs her Math test with a failing grade printed in red into the backpack with two dog themed library books. The bag eventually is over packed with her "worries" that it rips the zipper. When she gets home, she hides her bag under her bed before a disastrous dinner. This all leads up to Alyssa's favorite part of the charming story when her bag explodes at bedtime and splatters banana all over her schoolwork.  

It encourages children to ask for help when needed otherwise problems will just pile up and become a huge overwhelming mess. The book discusses what happens when you hide problems and "stuff" them away rather than directly dealing with them. It encourages children to utilize coping strategies to deal with their problems and worries. Susannah's parents help her sort out the issues in a constructive, positive way including deep breaths and communication. Mom explains to Susannah what she does when she is overwhelmed with unfinished tasks and it has nothing to do with her motherly superpowers which Susannah believed her mother possessed. Her mom says, "No. I sit back and take a big breath. I stack it all in the middle of my desk and put everything in order of most importance." This is wise advise for anyone being slammed with never-ending tasks. 

Alyssa said that this was her absolute favorite book which surprised me, because she is usually a huge non-fiction fan. It was also written from the perspective of a student who attends a public school so I thought she might not relate. However, my daughter saw the bigger picture and was able to grasp the message of the delightful story. 

We both agree that this book would be best for younger children in the age range. It could be read with struggling readers to build their confidence beginning with a simple chapter book or read aloud to children for fun.

At the end of the story, she said she wondered if Susannah ever went to Lola's sleepover. She felt like the author should finish the story in another book. 
Books by Carole P Roman

My daughter wants to purchase the other book in the series titled, Oh Susannah: Things That Go Bump for her upcoming birthday. While visiting the author's website, she looked at the cover of the next book in this series and made a prediction. She thinks that the next book will describe Susannah's experience at Lola's creepy haunted house during the sleepover. 
Books by Carole P Roman

Yes, I HIGHLY recommend all of these books to any homeschool family, educators, and librarians. Individuals that implement an Eclectic, Unit Study, Thematic, Literature-Based, or Charlotte Mason teaching approach will appreciate these resources. 

I will definitely drop off a list of suggested book titles to our local librarian in hopes that she'll purchase several of these book sets for our community. Alyssa was fascinated by the content and it sparked an eagerness to learn more. 

Overall Thoughts
I wanted Alyssa to dig deeper into the historical time periods and see things from a different point of view. Using these books, she experienced a unique point of view based on the book character's adventures. I believe the conversational tone of these books helped maintain her attention and lured her into the story. As she read, these picture books brought History to life. She learned important facts and terminology related to the historical era. She expanded her vocabulary by looking up and discussing unfamiliar words in the glossary. I was impressed with content and in-depth look into the time periods. It was evident that the author did extensive research when writing the non-fiction books. The illustrations created by the talented, Mateya Arkova, were beautiful and chosen to aid contextual understanding. I wish we could own the entire Historical series!     

Possible Vendor Suggestions
  • Add Recipes Specific to the Culture, Location, and Historical Time Period
  • Create Literature Guides with Hands-On Activities
  • More Pictures in the Oh Susannah Series for the Younger Readers
  • Vocabulary Words in Bold Print or Different Font Rather Than Italicized
Amazon Prices
Oh Susannah: It's in the Bag $8.99

If You Were Me and Lived in . . . the Ancient Mali Empire $16.99

If You Were Me and Lived in . . . the Middle Ages $16.99

If You Were Me and Lived in . . . Ancient Greece $16.99

Note: All prices are subject to change on Amazon at any time. 

Social Media
Good Reads

Many of Carole P. Roman's books were reviewed by my colleagues. Visit the Homeschool Review Crew Blog to read about their experiences with many different book titles from each series. You'll definitely want to check out the reviews!
Oh Susannah, Bedtime Stories, Captain No Beard, If you were Me ... {Carole P. Roman Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

No comments:

Post a Comment