This informative work will help children to understand the frontier experience by immersing their imaginations in it.
Carole P. Roman turns back the clock to the United States’ frontier days in If You Were Me And Lived In … The American West.
Roman’s latest series takes on cultural explorations throughout time, and here it focuses on the American West. Paula Tabor’s images combine realistic drawings with Photoshopped backgrounds to successfully convey the sense of what life was like in the 1840s.
The story itself centers on the Oregon Trail, using a familiar second-person style that helps young readers imagine themselves living the story: “You walked next to the wagon between ten and twenty miles per day.”
The detailed prose, describing the simple pleasures of the trail and homestead as well as obstacles and hardships, captures the frontier experience vividly, with passages like: “Very often you had to cover your mouth with a bandana to protect it from the dirt and sand.”
The book is richly informative, including short biographies and images of famous figures from the time in addition to a full glossary with pronunciation guides.
One of the strong points of the country-focused “If You were Me And Lived In …” books has been that they are gender-neutral, with descriptions that apply equally to boys or girls. The American West, though, commits to making the “you” a young boy, which may alienate girls.
The text sometimes seems unsure of itself in this respect. A focus on period names includes, “Your name could have been Clarence or Ethan if you were a boy,” and there are plenty of descriptions of a sister and her role and duties, but these are not dominant.
This book stands to serve a valuable role in helping children to understand the frontier experience—not from old text descriptions or black-and-white photographs of the time, but from a combination of modern graphics and text.
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