Tonight for Wednesday Reviews I am going to review a children's book about the Beatles called Fab Four Friends by Susanna Reich. Before I get too far into this book review I want to remind you all that my day job is that of a Title 1 reading teacher in a public school. I have a masters degree in reading and I teach K-5th grade students who are a little behind in their reading skills. I never claim to be a writer but I always claim to be a teacher and reading is the one thing in this world that I happen to know a whole lot about. So in reviewing this book, I can't help but review it not just as a Beatles fan, but also as a reading teacher.
If we want the legacy of the Beatles to continue to the next generation (which I assume we all agree that we do!), then we need to start exposing young kids to the Beatles' music and their story. Books such as Fab Four Friends is extremely important in telling the Beatles' story and getting kids interested in the band.
This book is said to be for grades 2-5, although I noticed right away that the reading level is much harder than I had originally anticipated. I did a quick readability scale on the book and discovered that it is written at a 6th grade level, so your average elementary age kid isn't going to be able to pick up this book and read it to him or herself. And that isn't a bad thing, because this book really needs to be a shared reading experience with an adult and a child. For a picture book, it is quite lengthy and most likely won't hold the attention of a kid who doesn't know anything about the Beatles. However, it is a great resource to share with a child who has shown interest in the Beatles' music and is eager to learn more about them.
The book is just about the Beatles' early years and talks about the four Beatles as children. It goes into the Quarrymen and the early days at the Cavern. It is told appropriately, even when talking about Hamburg. However, the early Beatle days has some themes that I know the children I teach would jump to question. Kids are fascinated with death in books. And this book mentions that Uncle George died, John's Mum was hit by a car and died and Paul's Mum had an illness and died. Well---I know kids will want to know all about that. "What did she have?" "How did she get hit by a car?" "My Grandpa died." "We had a dog that we had to put to sleep once...my mom cried and we were sad but now we have a kitten...." Yes----all of that will be brought up---trust me. Something else that was mentioned in the book that will get kids talking is how Brian Epstein cleaned up the Beatles and made them stop swearing on stage. Honestly, if I was reading this book to a kid under the age of 10, I most likely would skip the part about the swearing. They will be asking what swear words they said and try to get you away from the book.
The illustrations in the picture book are amazing. The illustrator, Adam Gustavson did an wonderful job painting the Beatles and Liverpool. The kids will love the photos and will enjoy taking a picture walk through the book even if they cannot read the words.
If you have an older student that is writing a report on the Beatles, Fab Four Friends would be a GREAT resource. Besides the two errors that I mentioned, everything else is spot on and has some interesting tidbits that kids aren't going to find in similar books. With Common Core pushing for more nonfiction book as well as research reports, this book is one that parents of elementary school students might just want to have on hand.