"Roman charms with an imaginative, whimsical picture book that will entertain even the oldest pirates."– Kirkus Reviews
Veteran author Roman (Being a Captain Is Hard Work, 2016, etc.) sends readers on a rhyming voyage through the Milky Way, accompanied by Arkova’s whimsical illustrations.
A pair of unnamed siblings ride on a rocket ship from Earth toward the moon and beyond. They rise up, away from the planet, and the cities and mountains shrink below as they head into the Milky Way. Roman’s words paint as vibrant a picture as Arkova’s gorgeous swirls of pinks and blues: “We love the constellations, / the way they fill the skies. // The crazy quilt of a universe / is spread before our eyes.” Flying through the solar system, passing Mercury, Venus, and Mars, the siblings dance atop their rocket among the constellations (including Drakko and Leo) and the bright stars (Polaris, Castor, Rigel). Then it’s back to the planets, including a very stylized, blue-tinted Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and poor, demoted Pluto, whose status as a dwarf planet isn’t mentioned. After a final zoom through the galaxy, the two children go home to their shared bedroom, where they have model planets suspended from the ceiling, star-painted walls, and a toy rocket ship between their beds. The book’s poetry scans well and rolls off the tongue without too much stumbling; the rhythm shifts now and then, but after one read-through, adults should be able to adjust their performance for lap readers without losing the beat. Some unique word selections will help children increase their vocabularies (“ponder,” “romp,” “glimpse”). Although this may increase the challenge for independent readers, younger ones will enjoy poring over the illustrations while their parents read aloud. The two siblings are wonderfully gender-ambiguous, so readers can imagine themselves as either the older, dark-haired sibling or the younger, blond child without hindrance. Arkova portrays several constellations with high accuracy but also depicts UFOs and aliens as extra details to add to the images’ dreamlike nature. The illustration and comforting language at the end of the book should have lap readers ready to head to their own rocket beds to drift off to sleep.
A read-aloud lullaby with dreamy pictures, perfect for sending budding astronauts to slumber.
Roman’s (Can a Princess Be a Firefighter?, 2016, etc.) series of cross-cultural children’s books continues in this basic introduction to ancient and modern Egypt, with helpful illustrations by Wierenga (If You Were Me and Lived In…Italy, 2015, etc.).
A pair of Egyptian siblings lead readers through their country, starting with its location on the globe and the names of its capital city and its regions. Roman helpfully sprinkles plenty of Egyptian vocabulary into the text right away, including “Masr” for “homeland” and “Umm-al-Dunya,” the title of Cairo, which means “mother of the world.” Wierenga uses a combination of illustrations and modified photos to aid in giving an impression of that city, putting an image of its famous Al-Azhar Mosque front and center. Roman gives examples of common Egyptian names for boys and girls before introducing some family terms and favorite sweet treats that the local children might have with their grandparents. The narrators take readers, as if they were visitors, to the Pyramids of Giza, providing a quick glimpse into the world of the pharaohs who built them. It’s nice that the book visits the ancient Egyptian sites in the context of taking tourists to see them rather than as everyday places that Egyptian kids go. However, it devotes several pages to these ancient areas (including a boat ride down the Nile) rather than exploring the modern lives of the children. Roman does return to present-day foods, though, such as “kofta” (skewered spicy meatballs) and “kushari,” (vegetarian stew) which may be unfamiliar to American readers; it also shows dishes, such as baba ghanoush, that Americans may find in their own hometowns. The narrators also show how they enjoy watching soccer on television and playing other sports, celebrating Sham-al-Nessim (the beginning of spring), and going to el madrasa (school). It’s surprising, however, that there’s no description of the types of clothing that the children wear, particularly as the girls are all dressed in hijabs throughout. There’s also no mention of Islam despite the presence of the mosque in the early illustration. These seem like important details to leave out of a book on Egyptian children’s daily lives in Egypt. However, it does feature occasional direct questions to readers to keep them engaged and plenty of new vocabulary, which will certainly make it worth having in the classroom.
A kids’ book that, despite some omissions, should spark young readers’ interest in modern Egypt.
Roman’s (If You Were Me and Lived in…Italy, 2015) newest Captain No Beard adventure takes the stormy high seas to a new level.
Captain No Beard and his crew are off on an adventure to Dew Rite Volcano, but there are clouds on the horizon. Although the captain’s crew expresses concern about possible bad weather, he dismisses them, claiming to be the resident expert on clouds. Despite increasingly rough seas, he orders Polly to make chocolate pudding in the galley and baby Zach to raise the flag. The crew becomes more agitated as the weather worsens, but the captain still refuses to acknowledge their points, insisting that it’s his job to make decisions. It isn’t until he has to save Zach from being swept overboard that he finally realizes how dangerous the situation is. At first, he refuses to apologize, using his traditional lament that “Being a captain is hard work,” but his crew reminds him that it isn’t his job to know everything. As a team, they say, they can work together to make good decisions if they trust one another’s knowledge. Hallie wisely points out that he has “two ears and one mouth” because listening is more important than talking. The captain finally apologizes and admits that he doesn’t, in fact, know everything, and his team cheers his wisdom. As in all the Captain No Beard books, Roman weaves a powerful lesson into the adventure, teaching young readers about friendship, humility, asking for help, and forgiveness. It does feel slightly repetitive when the captain continuously disregards his crew’s concerns about the storm, but the raging seas and rising danger keep things moving along. The illustrations are clever and engaging, bringing Captain No Beard and his crew effectively to life. The roiling clouds and stormy seas also provide great images. Roman adds an extra bonus with the captain’s discussion of the different types of clouds, and a glossary at the end of the book provides a good recap for young readers wishing to learn more.
A fantastic pirate adventure that mixes life and science lessons with danger, friendship, and triumph.
Young readers can use this picture book to travel to China and learn about everyday life and culture from the point of view of a child who lives there.
This latest children’s book in Roman’s (A Flag for the Flying Dragon, 2015, etc.) cultural series focuses on the Middle Kingdom and offers a look at what life is like for kids in the Asian country. Just as in prior volumes, which traveled to Scotland, Greece, Mexico, and other locales, this book explains the land’s culture, customs, and everyday life from the perspective of a young native. It opens with a map of the world to show where China is located and then describes China’s geography and landforms as well as its history; she notes, for example, that people have lived in Beijing for more than 3,000 years and that the city is “the political, cultural and education center of China.” She also takes what American kids know and understand and then compares it to their peers’ lives in China—for instance, American kids go to school, and Chinese kids go to “xue xiao.” She also describes Chinese sports; popular holiday traditions, such as Chinese New Year; common Chinese names; and what Chinese children call their parents. Roman describes how people in different regions of China eat different types of food: people in Beijing make Mandarin cuisine, those in the south make Cantonese food, and those in the southwest make Szechuan fare. With colorful illustrations and photographs and a warm, engaging tone, Roman’s books continue to appeal to young readers interested in other cultures. The text is well-researched and organized, with each page devoted to one topic with a corresponding image. Since many of the vocabulary words will be unfamiliar, Roman offers in-text pronunciation as well as a pronunciation guide at the back of the book. It’s a useful tool for both teachers and parents who want to inform children about geography early in life.
This winning overview of Chinese life and culture offers kids a good introduction to life in another country.
In Roman’s (Fribbet the Frog and the Tadpoles, 2015, etc.) newest pirate adventure for kids, a new crew member rocks the boat.
It’s business as usual on the Flying Dragon, as Captain No Beard humorously laments that “Being a captain is hard work” while standing on deck and watching his crew do all the work. He’s a pirate with pride, however, and he’s diligently searching for a flag worthy of his beloved ship. He’s distracted from his musings, however, when a commotion breaks out. He soon discovers that Mongo the monkey has been derailed from his lookout duties on the mast by the newest crew member—a diaper-wearing baby named Zachary. He’s big-time trouble, as many toddlers are, and everything he touches seems to get destroyed, much to the crew’s dismay. Their love for him is clear, especially from his big sister, Hallie, but it’s also heartbreaking for them to see their ship and crew falling apart under his assault. The colorful, vibrant illustrations vividly portray the havoc Zachary wreaks upon the Flying Dragon as the crew tries to find him a job to do. No coconut or lion’s paw is safe from the club-wielding baby, but the crew admirably tries to stay positive despite the damage. Roman gently reminds young readers not to call people names, no matter how tough a situation may be, and deftly slides that lesson into the ongoing story. Hallie’s dismay when Zachary finally takes her job is endearing, and readers will feel the other crew members’ emotions as Zachary takes his toll. Captain No Beard’s selfless solution is a touching, beautiful display that shows how self-sacrifice can lead to greater things than one ever imagined; it also provides a gentle hug to older children who may be tormented by their younger siblings. Although Roman manages to blend a lesson or two into her text, this is a story of adventure, angst, loyalty, and creativity that will rivet young readers. It also has enough humor and depth to appeal to adults.
Another trunk full of golden pirate treasure from Roman.
Captain No Beard and his loyal crew hit the high seas amid tears, change, and friendship in Roman’s (Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis, 2014) newest pirate picture book.
When their latest ocean trip commences, Captain No Beard can’t find his loyal mate Fribbet the Frog. A team search reveals he’s hiding on the ship, crying. When his shipmates ask what’s wrong, he says he’s scared. The crew then lists assorted things he could be afraid of—the dark, snakes, loud noises, etc.—and reassure him that it’s OK to be scared. The support of friends is endearing, and the illustration of Polly Parrot with her wings around Fribbet is particularly heartwarming. The discussion between Fribbet and his friends shows that for every fear a child can have, it’s likely that his or her friends share the same concern. Being brave enough to share those worries with your friends makes them less scary. When Fribbet begins to describe the appearance of eggs in his home—eggs that hatched to become tadpoles and, by now, little frogs—Captain No Beard realizes Fribbet is merely reacting to the unknown of becoming a big brother. Captain No Beard has a strong bond with his little sister, cabin girl Cayla, which he uses to help Fribbet understand that becoming a big brother isn’t all bad. In the end, a surprise twist brings closure to Fribbet’s situation, again reassuring children that the arrival of new siblings doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Roman’s gentle soothing of typical childhood fears is warm and nurturing, creating a softer feel than in some of the other Captain No Beard stories. There’s limited adventure here, since it’s more specifically targeted toward children facing the uncertainty of new siblings. Roman does, however, add some spice in a brief science lesson on the metamorphosis of tadpoles to frogs, and, as usual, her charming illustrations light up the page with their humanity, cleverness, and bright colors. Dialogue is in Roman’s typically pirate-rich lingo, clever and quick, but overall, the story feels less like a rollicking pirate book and more like a tool for child therapy featuring an important life lesson.
Another strong installment in the Captain No Beard series despite quieter action and the obvious educational bend.
Travel to Scotland and learn about life and culture from a child’s perspective.
In the latest addition to her If You Were Me and Lived In… series—previous volumes focused on Greece, Mexico, and other countries of the world—Roman whisks young readers to Scotland and provides an overview of what life is like for kids their age. Roman approaches her task by considering what kids will find interesting, beginning with the geography and history of the country, such as noting that Edinburgh is called the “Athens of the North” because its architecture was inspired by ancient Greece and Rome. She talks about toys, sports, and, of course, Loch Ness, the mythical monster lurking in the deep. She also describes traditional clothing, typical names for Scottish kids, and what kids call their parents. Roman also covers traditional food—“You would love to finish your meal with a Scottish tablet which is a fudge-like candy. Perhaps you’d like a clootie (cloo-tee) dumpling instead. It is a sweet pudding filled with raisins, sugar, milk, and syrup. Yum!” The detailed writing, which includes a key to pronouncing unfamiliar words, is easy to follow, and the intercontinental connections are clearly, entertainingly made. Roman asks lots of questions that will keep kids engaged and thinking about their own customs, while photographs and brightly colored illustrations provide a visual glimpse of Scottish culture. When combined with Roman’s other volumes, this volume can help kids understand their place in the world and inspire them to travel and see more of the globe firsthand.
An engaging primer on Scottish culture that can teach kids how similar their lives are to their peers’ around the world.
Roman (If You Were Me and Lived in…Peru, 2014, etc.) is back, this time helping kids virtually visit Hungary through an exploration of life and culture there.
The most recent installment of Roman’s If You Were Me and Lived In… series takes readers to Hungary on a journey similar to those of past volumes, in which kids learned about life in France, Peru, Mexico and elsewhere. Designed to teach kids about the similarities and differences between their lives and the lives of kids around the world, the book is an engaging walk through a country with which kids (and maybe even adults) may not be familiar. Roman begins with a map that shows Hungary as a landlocked country. She then explains how Buda and Pest combine into one capital city that’s separated by the Danube River. From there, she mentions traditional names for Hungarian children, what kids call their parents and grandparents, and the kinds of food typically found at the Hungarian dinner table. But the book isn’t just about vocabulary: Roman helps kids exercise their imaginations by giving them the information they need to envision themselves living in Hungary. For instance, “You might stop for dinner at your Nagy’s (Na-dge’s) house….She would make you her special goulash (goo-lash). Goulash is a thick stew filled with meat and vegetables. She would show you how she uses paprika (pap-reek-ca) which is one of her favorite spices.” Roman also describes tourist attractions in the country, gives details about holidays and tells how the Rubik’s Cube was invented in Hungary. In this short, approachable read, Roman writes engagingly and concisely, with colorful illustrations and photos reflecting what’s going on in the story. On top of that, a pronunciation key at the back of the book as well as in-text notes will help young readers pronounce unfamiliar words. Roman continues to offer texts ideal for classrooms or parents who want to teach their kids about geography and culture. Each country may seem different from a distance, but by covering topics that kids can understand and relate to, Roman helps them see just how similar people around the world are.
Gives kids a compelling glimpse of another colorful culture.
In the latest installment of Roman’s successful If You Were Me and Lived In… series, young readers can travel to Peru to learn about their peers’ lives and culture.
Having previously whisked elementary age readers to France, Mexico and India, among other countries, Roman’s series sets out for Peru with the aim of helping kids learn about the similarities and differences between their lives and the lives of Peruvians. First, the book situates Peru in South America and describes the capital city, Lima, which Roman notes “comes from an old Indian word, limaq (li-mack), which means ‘talker.’ ” As usual, Roman writes in a straightforward, engaging manner, exploring everyday life in Peru from the perspective of a child. For example, readers learn details such as what kids call their parents—“You would call your mommy, Mami (Mam-mee). When you see your daddy, you would call him Papi (Pap-pee)”—and what games they play: “You would love to play the game sapito (sa-peet-o) with your friends. You would place a palm-size toy frog in the center of many boxes and try to throw a coin into its mouth. Whoever got the most coins in the frog would win.” Roman describes other aspects of Peruvian culture, like the cuisine (ceviche, fried guinea pig, potatoes) and Carnival (a February festival in which “everybody has squirt guns, water balloons, and buckets of water,”) as well as tourist attractions like Machu Picchu. The story features colorful images and photographs of Peru that depict scenes from the text and help kids further understand what they’re reading. For instance, when Roman asks if readers can figure out what a “muñeca” is, the next page has a drawing of dolls, and a book-ending pronunciation key includes its definition. With such a focus on kid-friendly topics, it’s easy to see how young Americans and Peruvians aren’t that different from each other after all.
Roman successfully puts another pin on the map in this educational, engaging story about diversity and understanding other cultures.
An overview of Greek life and culture that offers readers a virtual tour through the country, as told from a child’s perspective.
In this latest installment of her children’s book series, Roman heads to Greece to take her readers on a whirlwind trip through its young narrator’s homeland. Much like her previous books, which focused on Hungary, France, Mexico, and other lands, this one presents an engaging look at a foreign country while also considering topics that kids will find relatable. The book opens with a map of Greece, and the narrator points out where it’s located on the globe. The narrator then describes Athens, the capital city, noting its vital role in the creation of democracy, as well as how Plato and Aristotle taught there and continue to have an enduring legacy. From there, the book moves on to everyday life, covering common Greek first names, the terms for various family members, and important tourist attractions. It also notes important moments in Greek history, such as the establishment of the Olympics, which may help kids understand why Greece is a particularly important country. The narrator describes iconic Greek foods in detail: “Tzatziki is a tangy sauce made from yogurt and cucumber to put on roasted lamb….You will always ask to finish your meal with loukoumades (loo-ka-mad-es), which is a doughnut covered with honey and cinnamon.” These descriptions, along with the helpful pronunciation key at the back (and phonetics scattered throughout the text), will make it easy for kids to imagine how the foods taste as they also add to their vocabularies. Overall, Roman’s engaging, concise writing style, combined with colorful illustrations and photos, provides an easy-to-follow summary of Greek culture. It’s an excellent place for kids to start if they’re researching Greece for a school project or if parents want to help them understand the similarities and differences between American and Greek societies.
A look at an important world culture that will show kids just how similar they are to others around the world.
In the latest installment of Roman’s (The Crew Goes Coconuts!, 2014, etc.) series—which previously examined India, France, Mexico and elsewhere—elementary age readers learn about the culture, geography and everyday lives of children in Australia.
This entry in Roman’s series opens with a map showing the shape of the country, an explanation of how it got its name, its location on the globe and the location of its capital city. Roman then mentions the major cities. From there, readers learn about things important to kids, e.g., what Australian kids call their parents—“You would call your mommy, ‘mummy’ (m-uh-mee) and your dad would answer to ‘daddy’ (Da-dee), just like in America.”—and what games they play: “cricket (crick-it), an outdoor game played on a large grass field with balls, bats, and two wickets (wick-its), which are posts that serve as goals.” Roman also describes tourist attractions, such as the Great Barrier Reef, and mentions that Australia’s currency is called the dollar, just like in the U.S. She even explains what a vegemite sandwich is—“dark brown vegetable paste [spread] onto white bread with some Western Star butter.” The story is lively and engaging, with pages of bright, colorful illustrations to help explain the text and make it more educational and appealing to kids. For instance, the page about Dad grilling on the “barbie” shows a father cooking shrimp and steaks. In past volumes, the glossary/pronunciation guide was located at the back of the book, but in this one, phonetic spellings are also sprinkled throughout the text—a distracting change, especially since some words, such as “daddy (Da-dee)” and “Jack (J-ae-k),” aren’t dramatically different in American English. Despite that, as with the other books in this enlightening and approachable series, this entry will help kids see the similarities and differences between their own lives and those of their peers around the world.
Kids will easily and enjoyably learn the basics about Australian life and culture.
Young readers learn about the culture, geography and life of their peers in India.
In Roman’s (If You Were Me and Lived In…Kenya, 2013, etc.) latest installment of her cultural series (previous volumes covered France, Mexico and other countries), she transports readers to India, where she takes them on a whirlwind, detailed tour. Geared toward young readers, the story also works as a primer for readers of all ages. Beginning with maps showing India’s place in the world and the location of the capital, New Delhi, the book reveals everyday life in India from the perspective of a child. For instance, readers learn what children call their parents—“When you talk to your mommy, you would call her Maaji. Then when you need your daddy, you would say, ‘Pitaji!’ ”—and about the food—“Some people in India do not eat beef or pork, so there are ways to cook vegetables with interesting spices. Cumin, curry, cinnamon, and chilies are used in abundance to flavor the dishes.” Roman describes important sites in the country, such as the Taj Mahal; holidays; sports; and other details. This book, like the others in Roman’s series, is engaging and straightforward. The colorful images help comprehension of the text. An illustration of a cricket match, for example, helps show the similarities to American baseball. At the conclusion, a pronunciation key provides phonetic spellings and definitions. In addition, the construction of the sentences throughout the story—“You would…” and “You might like…”—helps young readers imagine themselves in the various scenes. Most kids go to school, play games and celebrate holidays, and Roman’s stories help them realize how much we all have in common.
A colorful, engaging text that will help young readers find a greater appreciation of another culture.
Roman’s (Captain No Beard: Strangers on the High Seas, 2013, etc.) pirate adventure, the fifth installment in her picture-book series, tackles the idea of what really matters.
Replete with brightly colored illustrations that bring to life dear friends and their vivid surroundings, the book begins when Captain No Beard and his feisty crew see a red sunrise. Polly the Parrot recites an ancient poem saying that red sky by morning means a storm is coming. When the crew demands to know where she came upon that information, she tells them about books and the joys to be found within their pages. The fascinated crew hammers her with questions, and their reactions are hilarious and endearing as they each discover books about their greatest loves or fears. The sparkling, fast-paced text gives life to the crew’s animated discussions. Fribbet the Frog, however, soon erupts into a hilarious moment of panic that the crew is talking about books instead of preparing for the storm: “How can you talk about books now! Red sky, oh boy. We’re in trouble. Storm’s coming. Shiver me timbers!” Just as the poem predicts, the crew does indeed encounter bad weather, with each team member doing his or her best to manage his or her duties, including cabin girl Cayla’s dubious contributions of pouring sour milk out of her bottle and unfraying a rope. The support and teamwork of the crew is a good reminder that working together in the face of adversity can make even a storm at sea fun. When the storm quiets, Captain No Beard whips out a treasure map for Snake Island, and the crew disembarks to find the treasure. Roman sets up an expectation for the treasure to be traditional pirate loot, so when they open the trunk and discover it’s full of books, it is a delightful, surprising twist. When the crew realizes they’ve stumbled up on a cache of books, the lack of gold is no disappointment among the ranks. Instead, they are all delighted and retire with happy joy to read about their favorite topics. As always, Roman skillfully intertwines a good lesson with open-sea adventure, danger and good ol’ pirate lingo. It’s even endearing how Polly the Parrot offers bottles of water for the crew while they dig—remember to stay hydrated, young readers!
Another fun, satisfying pirate adventure.
Roman (If You Were Me and Lived In …Kenya, 2013, etc.) introduces children to the history, geography and customs of Turkey in this colorful primer.
This entry in the author’s cultural series follows the format of the books that preceded it, which took young readers to Mexico, France, Kenya and other countries. In this case, Roman gives children a brief lesson on the geography of Turkey before moving on to everyday customs. Kids learn about Turkish holidays, landmarks, children’s names and money (at the market, “you would use lira to pay for things”). The book also describes family life and popular toys and games: “Of course, you would love to play soccer, but you would call it football, because you use only your feet. Maybe you would rather play with a doll, which is called a bebek.” In clear and simple language, Roman demystifies customs that many young readers may be hearing about for the first time, such as when she explains: “You would enjoy a feast of borek and doner kebabs. Borek is a delightful pastry stuffed with meat, cheese, or potatoes. Doner kebab is marinated, grilled lamb that is served with a round bread called pide.” Colorful illustrations, depicting activities such as eating borek or visiting a market, convey additional information. The frequent use of "you" encourages children to imagine themselves visiting Turkey, which makes the book a good choice for early elementary school students studying geography or world cultures. And with Turkish cuisine becoming more widely available in American restaurants, the descriptions of food may give readers ideas for dishes they’d like to try closer to home. Taken as a whole, Roman’s series can help kids see that while they may have different names or eat different foods than do their peers in other countries, they have many things in common.
A simple introduction to Turkey that may especially appeal to elementary school children who are learning about life in other countries.
Roman (If You Were Me and Lived In…Norway, 2013, etc.) offers a children’s primer of the geography, sports, food and vocabulary that Kenyan kids encounter in their daily lives.
The latest installment in this cultural series—preceded by books on Mexico, France, South Korea and Norway—takes young readers to the African nation of Kenya, where they get a short, engaging lesson on the country’s culture. The opening phrase “If you were me…” helps kids imagine a narrator not much different from themselves. Their Kenyan counterpart lives with their parents (“If you needed your mommy, you would call for Mzazi. When you are speaking to your daddy, you would call him Baba”), buys milk from the market and pays for it “with a shilling,” eats snacks (“samosa, a small triangular pastry filled with meat or vegetables and fried in oil”) and goes to school. The book covers Mombasa Carnival, a large yearly festival, and discusses its importance. It also explains the basics of cricket, a popular sport in Kenya, and the fact that kids usually entertain themselves with handmade toys. Roman’s books are successful since she draws connections between cultures while maintaining a tone that keeps young readers engaged. Colorful illustrations further enhance the text, such as one showing kids playing with cricket bats. A glossary at the end offers a pronunciation key for the unfamiliar words throughout. This series of books would be a natural fit in school classrooms and would also provide a good way for parents to teach their own kids about the cultures, languages and geography of different countries. This installment is a quick read that may help kids see the similarities between themselves and their Kenyan peers.
An excellent introduction to the Kenyan culture for children.
The latest installment of this children’s book series introduces kids to the culture, geography and traditions of Norway.
Roman’s latest book follows the same formula as the first three books in her series, A Child’s Introduction to Cultures Around the World, which previously took kids to Mexico, France and South Korea. Written in the second person, Roman’s book invites young readers to come along with her on a tour of the country and to imagine experiencing a different life. This time, she turns her attention to Norway and the Scandinavian country’s cuisine, sports and language. She begins with a map of the country, noting its location on the globe as well as the nation’s capital, before describing landforms and geography. Once she’s situated kids in the country, it’s time to learn about local traditions and customs. While on vacation, “You would also go snowmobiling, ice fishing, and on dogsled trips.” The activities should help work up an appetite for “an open faced sandwich with either shrimp or chicken called a smørbrød. A vafler topped with krem, which is a waffle with cream on it, would be the perfect way to finish your meal.” Roman also mentions that the country’s major holiday, Syttende Mai, celebrates Norwegian independence on May 17 and includes a parade. The story also makes kids stop and think—“When the shopkeeper says ‘Thank You,’ you would respond, ‘Din velkommen.’ Can you guess what that means?”—and at the end of the book, a pronunciation guide will help kids learn how to say Norwegian words. Like the first three books in the series, this text provides a great overview of a likely unfamiliar culture for kids. The colorful illustrations, such as a picture of the Syttende Mai parade, a smorgasbord with different traditional dishes and a dogsled led by huskies, can help kids better envision what they’re reading. This title, as well as other books in the series, would be worthwhile for teachers to keep in the classrooms or for parents to help introduce their children to cultures of the world.
The simple, engaging premise works again.
A crash course in South Korean culture that provides kids with an overview of the country’s food, holidays, vocabulary and daily life.
This third book in Roman’s (Captain No Beard: Strangers on the High Seas, 2013, etc.) series follows the same premise as her previous books on France and Mexico. The book begins by pointing out South Korea’s geographical location and landforms, then touches on popular names, types of currency and how South Korean children address their parents. Roman also mentions holidays, activities such as taekwondo, and school routines. It’s a very breezy book, with just a fact or two per page, which will be easy for many kids to absorb. The engaging tone keeps the educational aspects from feeling dry or boring. The book series has a simple but effective premise: It teaches kids the basics of another culture in a way that connects it to their own personal lives (“When you call your mommy, you would say Omma. When you address your father, his name would be Appa.”). The book pairs text with colorful images that help kids make these associations; for example, a page about Korean cuisine reads, “They would cook the meat right at the table on a very hot plate….Rice is usually always on the table. You would eat your meal with metal chopsticks,” and features illustrations of kids and parents at a table using each object. A pronunciation key at the end of the book, meanwhile, will help acquaint kids with the Korean language. Overall, Roman has written another winner, and elementary school classrooms could easily incorporate this book into lessons about South Korea.
A simple, thoughtful children’s overview of important aspects of South Korean culture.
Roman’s (Pepper Parrot’s Problem with Patience: A Captain No Beard Story, 2013) latest adventure about Captain No Beard and his band of plucky pirates tackles the issue of stranger danger.
Captain No Beard is good-naturedly cranky about the fact that he’s babysitting his new cabin girl, Cayla, while trying to enjoy a day on the high seas. Roman’s color illustrations are hilarious and animated, showcasing the great horror of the crew when Cayla almost tips over the edge of the boat before Captain No Beard rescues her by grabbing her diaper. First mate Hallie cheerfully stands up to Captain No Beard’s complaints about Cayla, seeing only great fun in having a baby on board. Her defense of Cayla is a good reminder to kids that it’s OK to stand up for what’s right, including defending those who are being picked on, even when dealing with people in positions of power. The debate over Cayla is forgotten when Captain No Beard and the others notice a dark, scary ship approaching at high speed. The crew of the incoming ship shouts over the wind, innocently claiming to be lost and in need of directions. Captain No Beard’s crew quickly goes into a huddle, some of them having heard rumors about the approaching ship, with its troublemaking first mate, Crab Cakes, and the mean captain, Shark Bait. Clever humor abounds, such as when Fribbet the Frog declares that he does not like crab cakes because “they are very messy,” not realizing that the Crab Cakes in question is actually the first mate. The crew agrees that although they have heard of the approaching crew, they do not truly know them. First mate Hallie announces, “We certainly don’t speak to people we don’t know. And we never approach animals without permission.” Hearty agreement reverberates, and Captain No Beard steers his vessel away from the approaching ship…but they cannot escape! At least not until a great odor wafting from Cayla’s diaper sends the enemy scurrying for cover in an unexpected but hilarious conclusion to the story. The delivery of the message and the content is first-rate, and the twist at the end will leave readers laughing out loud and ready for the next book in the series.
Another victory on the high seas for Roman.
Roman’s (Captain No Beard: Strangers on the High Seas, 2013, etc.) latest children’s book offers an introduction to French culture that highlights similarities in the lives of American and French children.
This second book in the author’s If You Were Me and Lived in… series focuses on France and its history, culture and language. The book is geared toward elementary school age children, and, as such, explores French life through a child’s eyes. Each page addresses the reader as “you,” aiming to create a connection between the reader and the narrator, a French child. The book begins with a map of France, pointing out its location in Western Europe, and then gives readers a tour of the country. Kids learn why Paris is called the “City of Light,” what they would call their parents in French, and what the French word for “school” is. The narrator also asks questions such as, “If your parents bought bread in a boulangerie, they would pay in euros. What else do you think they would have in a boulangerie?”—an ideal jumping-off point for a classroom unit on France. The book also covers French food, sports, holidays, toys and other aspects of the culture and helps American kids make comparisons and connections by, for example, likening hazelnut spread to peanut butter. Roman is also the author of the charming Captain No Beard series, and her approachable writing style succeeds here as well. Although the book’s premise is simple, the author ably explains cultural similarities and differences, and the colorful illustrations help keep things light. The book also includes a pronunciation guide to help kids sound out French names and nouns.
A book that engagingly helps young Americans see what they share in common with French children.
Supported by primary colors and playful illustrations, Roman (Stuck in the Doldrums: A Lesson in Sharing—A Captain No Beard Story, 2013, etc.) takes little ones on a journey through the sights, sounds and spaces of Mexico.
A nameless young boy and girl guide readers through different details of Mexican life, touching on its geographic location; its capital, Mexico City; and several landmark structures, including the historic Mayan pyramid, Chichén Itzá. In addition to these larger attractions, Roman shares tidbits of information about everyday cultural highlights such as traditional Mexican names, holidays, sports, currency and food. The prose is unimaginative in places, but the simple vocabulary will be accessible for young or beginning readers, and a helpful pronunciation guide will aid readers who are unfamiliar with the Spanish words used throughout. This format perhaps works best when, after using a Spanish word in a sentence, Roman asks the reader its meaning; for instance, after writing about learning in “la escuela,” the narrator asks, “Can you guess what that is?” It’s almost possible to hear children excitedly answering, “School!” Elsewhere, the story is strongest when directly engaging readers, allowing children to connect the story to their own personal experiences: “You would love to celebrate a holiday called Decubrimiento de América. It is a day to honor the discovery of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Do you have a day like that too?” Connections between the highlighted details are sometimes difficult to follow, however, which undermines the narrative flow. Roman links together some of the examples but not consistently, causing the book to sometimes read more like a vocabulary exercise than a fully realized tale.
Despite some weaknesses, a helpful introduction to Mexico for early elementary students and a useful addition to a Spanish language lesson.
In Roman’s (Pepper Parrot’s Problem With Patience, 2013, etc.) newest Captain No Beard adventure, the feisty captain learns that teamwork can save the day.
Life as a pirate ship captain isn’t always fun, especially when the wind dies down and the ship gets “stuck in the doldrums.” Stranded on a desert island, Captain No Beard’s crew endeavors to entertain themselves by seeing shapes in the clouds with a telescope. The colorful illustrations and animated expressions of the characters bring life to the tropical scene populated by good friends. Unfortunately, however, there’s only one telescope. Everyone on the crew wants a turn to see the marshmallows in the clouds, but Captain No Beard claims his status as captain means he gets dibs. When the rest of the crew stomps off to find other entertainment by building a sand castle, Captain No Beard finds that telescope-gazing alone isn’t much fun. Then, when the captain starts bossing the other pirates around and rebuilding their sand castle, his crew relocates to the other side of the beach so they can have some fun and be rid of the domineering captain. Calling it mutiny, Captain No Beard retreats to his dragon-headed ship, proclaiming, “Who needs them anyway? It’s my ship, and I can do everything myself.” However, when a feisty squid attacks the ship in a colorful swirl of purple and blue waves, the big boss quickly learns that he needs his crew to survive. After a moment of hesitation, his loyal team comes to the rescue despite his poor treatment of them, teaching him that it’s more important to be a good friend than a boss. Captain No Beard acknowledges the lesson, saying, “A good captain must consider everyone’s feelings, or else nobody will want to be in his crew,” to which his crew responds with hearty cheers of “Arrgh, arrgh.” His crew’s frankness in explaining how to be both a friend and boss will teach children to speak up when their friends aren’t being as considerate as they could be. Honesty and a genuine apology help heal the misunderstanding, giving way to cheerful fun and a beautiful lesson for kids.
Once again, Roman delights with whimsical pictures, clever text, important lessons and plenty of pirate lingo.
In Roman’s (Captain No Beard, 2012, etc.) latest children’s book, a feisty parrot joins the crew of Capt. No Beard’s pirate ship, The Flying Dragon, but struggles to keep up with the other crew members.
Pirate captain No Beard runs a tight ship. His crew—Mongo the monkey, Linus the lion, Fribbet the frog and human Hallie, the first mate and the captain’s cousin—gets along swimmingly as they do their assigned tasks. Then Pepper the parrot joins The Flying Dragon as the new cook. She’s feisty and friendly, but when Capt. No Beard has the crew practice their emergency routines on deck, she can’t keep her right and left sides straight (starboard and port, in nautical jargon). After a few failed attempts at getting it right, she throws a temper tantrum and pounds her wings on the deck in frustration. Kindly Hallie realizes what the problem is and teaches Pepper a way to tell her right side from her left side—by making an L shape with her left wing. Once Pepper has a handle on the directions, Hallie tells her, “See, Pepper, there was no reason to cry. Don’t get angry and scream. Just ask for help and wait. We are all here to help you. That’s what crewmates do. All you need is a little patience.” The rest of the crew members applaud her and rename her Polly. Roman’s story, the second in the Capt. No Beard series, stresses the importance of teamwork and the necessity of not giving up in difficult situations. The characters help each other to build confidence and learn new skills, and they do so in a kind, patient way. The book has colorful illustrations on each page and uses lots of pirate lingo, which makes this an appealing read for young children. At the end, readers learn that Capt. No Beard is actually a kid named Alexander who was playing in his bedroom, adding a playful dimension about the importance of imagination.
A charming children’s story about not giving up.
A little girl has fun learning to do simple yoga poses in Roman’s picture book.
Hallie joins her mother on a trip to the yoga studio, but to her dismay, she doesn’t get to come along for class. Instead, she has to stay in the kid’s room with Robin, the baby sitter. But while Hallie pouts, Robin has an idea: She demonstrates how to be a tree by standing on one leg and raising her arms in the air. “Trees are peaceful, quiet, and strong,” she explains. Hallie copies the moves and strikes the pose too. She also learns how to be a sleek airplane with outstretched arms, to flap her knees like a beautiful butterfly and to stretch out like a hissing cobra. The story is short—just seven pages of text—but sweet. Roman (Captain No Beard, 2012, etc.) uses simple language to begin to demystify an activity that may bewilder many young children. Uncomplicated but visually appealing illustrations make it easy for readers to try the four poses themselves. The skillful illustrations include details that exemplify a typical yoga studio: serene posters on the wall, mats and women exercising in class. While color highlights the main subjects on every page, a closer look at background images reveals amusing happenings: A giggling boy in the kid’s room uses a hand puppet to tease a playmate; a baby crawls on Robin while she’s sitting in the butterfly pose; and the mommies in class stand on their heads. The story includes a few basic but potentially new vocabulary words, such as “sleek,” “sole” and “cobra.” Hallie’s adventure conveys two subtle lessons: It’s fun to learn new things, and you don’t have to be a grown-up to do yoga. The very succinct book may introduce more questions about yoga than it answers, but the messages are clear.
A cute story likely to inspire little yogis.
Debut author Roman pens a picture book about an imaginative boy who transforms his bed and stuffed animals into props for a marvelous pirate adventure.
Roman draws the reader in from the first page with illustrations that are cheerful and clever. The story showcases a young pirate and his menagerie: cousin Hallie, a first mate who sports a purple bandanna and ruffled pirate shirt; Linus, the loudmouthed but scaredy-cat lion with a braided goatee; Fribbet, the floppy frog with an audacious red pirate hat; and Mongo, the mast-climbing monkey who charms with an eye patch and endearingly oversized lips. Roman deftly creates an appealing visual experience with engaging, bright illustrations that will appeal to young readers. The characters are rich with animated expressions and personalities that showcase the creative and warmhearted ways the characters have fun. Well-drafted secondary characters also include the “mermaid” who appears with a plate of golden doubloons (in the form of cookies) and orders the pirate not to get crumbs on the bed when eating them. The text has a lovely intonation when read aloud, and the simple, understandable story also carries a more complex, clever subtext that will allow for educational discussions. The captain’s constant good-natured lament that “being a captain is hard work”—as he watches his crew do all the actual labor—is hilarious and a pleasant opportunity to teach children about the nuances of words and their layers of meaning. The author’s adept use of genuine pirate terms—“swab the decks,” “pump the bilges” and “me hearties”—adds flavor and authenticity to the story, too. The captain and his crew sit down with a dictionary to figure out what “shiver me timbers” means, and then they take great delight upon using the phrase correctly; children will, too.
Roman charms with an imaginative, whimsical picture book that will entertain even the oldest pirates.
If You Were Me and Lived in Italy by Carole P. Roman, illustrated by Kelsea Wierenga
American grade-schoolers are invited to imagine life growing up in Italy in this educational, if heavily Rome-centric, series entry from Roman.
Roman introduces young readers to the geography, foods, and traditions of Italy in this latest addition to her “If You Were Me and Lived In…” series, which has previously featured Russia, Turkey, Mexico, and other countries. Starting off with the global location  and quickly dashing through a brief overview of the Roman Empire,  Roman quickly brings kids into the picture by offering them ideas about common names  and useful words—such as gelato  and latte e panne with prosciutto e fromaggio  (the latter is a ham and cheese sandwich). Roman asks reader to guess at the meanings of Italian phrases before translating them in order to keep her readers engaged. But many young American readers, especially in areas where Italian American populations are high, won’t seem much new here in terms of foods or names—or the importance of their relationship with their Nonno and Nonna.  The traditions and holidays celebrated in Italy, [20-21] on the other hand, are sure to intrigue young readers looking for extra reasons to be festive, such as “August 15, which is the official start of summer and called ferragosto.” Because Roman has so few pages to cover a nation with so deep a history, the book is extremely Rome-centric rather than exploring other areas of Italy, featuring the Coliseum and Vatican City as highlights. There is also no mention made of Italy’s growing diversity, instead presenting all aspects of Italian culture as homogenous across the nation. Despite that, the fast facts, child-centered prose, and brightly colored, eye-catching illustrations that combine place photographs with cartoon family members are sure to grab independent readers. In-text pronunciation guides are supported by a detailed pronunciation guide and glossary in the end pages.
A kids-eye-view of life in Italy aimed at the fourth grade level, best used alongside other titles in the series.