I was apprehensive about reviewing Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles, a non-fiction narrative picture book about the Beatles, for a handful of reasons. But, when I learned that it was written by Susanna Reich, author of the absolutely charming picture book about Julia Child's cat, Minette's Feast, I knew it was worth reading. The Beatles are iconic while at the same time being, most likely, largely unknown to the target audience for this book. I was pleased to discover that Reich found a storytelling angle for these very familiar musicians and their band that is perfect for a young audience. To top it off, illustrations by Adam Gustavson bring an intimacy and warmth to these very recognizable faces that doesn't always come through in photographs.
Starting with John, Reich dedicates several pages to the early lives of each of the Beatles and how they came together. I was infatuated with the Beatles when I was in junior high school and read a biography or two about them, yet it took Reich's book (and maybe an adult perspective) to make me realize that all four of the Beatles experienced some kind of loss, illness or struggle with poverty as children beyond the expected hardships of growing up in a post-WWII England.
In a time when television can make someone a star in a matter of weeks, I especially appreciate the focus Reich shines on the time and the hard work that the Beatles put in (especially during their stint in Germany) to achieve success. As the title indicates, Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles is about early connections, and friendships, something that young readers will be able to relate to and appreciate. Reich's prose is often (appropriately) lyrical and an author's note adds a welcome perspective to the story she has told here, as well as all the known details that she had to decide to leave out. That, in fact, is the truly remarkable feat Reich has accomplished with Fab Four Friends: The Boys Who Became the Beatles - paring down and teasing out facts about these very well known celebrities and sharing them in a way that will resonate with young readers and make them want to know more. Reich also adds a glossary, notes and sources that will help curious readers!
Source: Review Copy