By Carole P. Roman
According to renowned psychologist Jean Piaget (1896-1980), young children go through an egocentric stage of development. At this time in their lives, they don’t have the ability to imagine experience from another point of view. The world is important only in so far as it relates to them. Piaget’s discovery is something most parents and teachers recognize and it is the principle at work in Carol Roman’s If You Were Me and Lived in….Ancient Greece. The book puts the child at the center of the Ancient Greek universe.
Concrete, realistic scenes carry the narrative forward. Children are invited to use their imagination and place themselves in various real-life situations. Each of these scenarios is accompanied by a vivid illustration.
If You Were Me and Lived in… Ancient Greece is not a long book, but it does manage to convey a trove of information. The marketplace, domestic life and even politics are covered. Some information will be startling, though not upsetting, to young children. Learning about the Greek system of slavery will certainly impress them. They might find it hard to believe that a person can be free, captured and then enslaved for life. Equally surprising may be the discussion about gender roles. Girls will no doubt protest when they learn how diminished their status would be, if they lived in Ancient Greece.
One aspect of Greek culture that is handled skillfully is the subject of gods. As children grow older they’ll probably be obliged to learn about Greek mythology. Familiarity with the most important of the gods will likely help them to sort the myriad personalities. Each god introduced by Ms. Roman is presented in the context of that deity’s role in society. Poseidon, for example, rules the sea, so shipping and trade are connected to him. And Heracles, known for extraordinary strength, is associated with a description of the Olympics.
If You Were Me and Lived in …Ancient Greece is beautifully illustrated. The book begins with an airplane ride and magically transports children to another time and place. It is a journey they will eagerly embrace. Be prepared to read this book many times, because it is bound to become a favorite.