Award-winning author Carole Roman has written a lovely picture book to introduce young children to the country and culture of Mexico. If You Were Me and Lived in… Mexico: A Child’s Introduction to Cultures Around the World is intended for ages pre-K through eight. It combines carefully selected information with images crafted to be typical, but never stereotypical. The book is available from Amazon and on the author’s website.
In my experience, it is hard to find books about countries and cultures that are appropriate for this age group. Many are filled with stereotypes. Others, partly in an attempt to avoid stereotypes, include too much information and do not hold a child’s interest. Some of these books rely heavily on photographs, but it is difficult for a photograph to represent a broad reality.
In If you were me and lived in Mexico… Carole Roman masterfully negotiates these issues. She chooses to focus on a few facts that children identify with and easily grasp. Kids learn, for example, what their name might be, what they might call their parents and what their favorite food might be.
Part of the effectiveness of this book is its restraint. It presents just a few names, rather than a long list, and suggests one favorite food rather than dozens. By keeping the information simple, If you were me and lived in Mexico… is manageable and opens the door for conversation about these topics. The author also carefully chooses facts that appeal to children. For example, they learn that the temple at Chichen Itza has 365 steps. Kids love information like this!
The illustrations support the text and also focus on representations that are meaningful to young readers, such as children talking to their parents, going to school and playing at home. In the background of the illustrations, children will see a market, a flower vendor and a park, but as I mentioned, these features are typical, not stereotypical. Even the traffic of Mexico city, a detail in the illustration of el Palacio de Bellas Artes, conveys a sense of Mexico that many adult readers will find familiar.
How do you begin to choose a handful of facts and images that represent the complexity of a nation and a culture? How do you create a glimpse of a country that is accurate and intriguing? The answer is “very carefully.” If you are successful, the result is a book called If you were me and lived in Mexico…
You can learn more about the author and the If you were me and lived in…series on Carole Roman’s website.
Disclosure: The author sent me a copy of this book to write the article. All of the ideas and opinions are my own.