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.