Saturday, February 11, 2017

If You Were Me and Lived in...the Ancient Mali Empire by Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived in...the Ancient Mali Empire by Carole P. Roman is the newest addition to
Romans' picture book  series introducing readers to a variety of civilizations from various time periods.

Ancient Mali is a little known culture to many readers.  Roman's picture history book sheds light on this mysterious ancient, yet taboo culture through the eyes of a young girl growing up in a typical Ancient Mali household.  Ironically, this story is somber account although the author takes a light hearted tone in the telling of the young girl's life, and culture. As an educator and historian, Roman reports the culture as she sees it, without omitting even the distasteful elements of the culture.

 There is no censorship in this book as the author gives a truthful, matter of fact, judgement free depiction of some of the primitive cultural practices such as polygamy and child marriage that are considered immoral and unacceptable practices in today's society. For example, on page 10 the author explains that a traditional family would include multiple wives with one husband and many children.  "You shared the house with your father and his four wives.  There were seventeen children between all your father's wives.  He always told you that you were his favorite."  Polygamy is a difficult concept for young children to grasp, even if only in the historical context and something that parents or educators would feel is not appropriate for younger aged children. The practice of child marriage is introduced on page 44 with the statement "you knew the time was coming for you to marry".  A few pages later more detail is added "Twelve to thirteen was a turning point for you too.  You would be considered ready to have children and a marriage would be arranged.... You had time to worry about the thought of a husband.  You were just ten this last year."

For example page 42 explains, "punishment was fierce and fast.  Liars had their tongues cut out, thieves lost their hands".   In fact some conservative readers might find offense with the author's non judgmental stance towards these barbaric practices,

Although this is formatted as  a picture book, it is much more than a simple picture book in its content and detail.  This new hybrid book concept blends the best of a picture book and a history book.  What is created is  a full sized  history book.  Though the pictures make it seem like a picture book for kids, the content is more appropriate for older students who are able to grasp the darker nuances of ancient cultural practices no longer deemed morally acceptable or legal today. This book may stir up some controversy and by other's it will receive a warm reception.  Either way this book is a springboard for lively dialog debates.  Either way this is a book that will illicit a reaction from many parents and educators.

 Additional books in this series include Elizabethan England, Ancient Greece, and Colonial America and are available through Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

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