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Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Beatles Were Fab (And They Were Funny), written by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer with illustrations by Stacy Innerst. Harcourt Children's Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Thomas Allen & Son, 2013. $20.99 ages 8 and up

"In their early days, the Beatles performed for hours and hours in hundreds and hundreds of shows around England and Germany. It was exhausting and paid next to nothing. Anxious to have a record of their own, the Beatles were afraid the band was going nowhere. They used silliness to help keep their spirits up."

It's been lovely reading the glowing newspaper reviews this week concerning Sir Paul McCartney's Winnipeg concert on Monday. By all accounts, he continues to 'rock out' more than fifty years later. The almost 32,00 fans who attended couldn't have been more pleased to watch the three-hour-long show that thrilled and delighted die-hard fans and brand new ones. It was a show for all ages. The last time Sir Paul was in Winnipeg was twenty years ago, and many of those attending had not yet been born. A CBC report reads:

"At 71 years old, he's still got it.
Former Beatle Paul McCartney played a sold-out concert at Winnipeg's Investors Group Field for nearly three hours Monday night, leaving fans hoarse and happy. The 71-year-old musical legend and his band took to the stage at about 8:30 p.m., kicking off the show — part of the Out There tour — with the classic tune Eight Days a Week, then went on to rock the crowd with favourites like Hey Jude, Blackbird and Live and Let Die. The show wrapped up just before 11:30 p.m. after three encores and a sky filled with fireworks and confetti."

Obviously, it was the place to be!

Since their first recording contract in 1962, the Beatles have influenced music throughout the world for listeners, and for musicians. Beatlemania is surely a part of my musical history, even though I have never seen any of the boys from Liverpool in person. I remember that Christmas in  1963 when we danced and sang our way through the entire album, our parents concerned with our preoccupation with those 'long-haired boys from across the pond'!

In this picture book biography, Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewer begin at their beginning, where four young men forged a friendship that they filled with laughter. As they became stars around the world, it was this humor that allowed them to deal with the insanity that followed them wherever they went.
Young readers will come to know about the Beatles without overwhelming them with detail. The highlights are here, along with the humor that was so much a part of their relationship:

"It was the birth of something new: Beatlemania. No one had seen or heard a band quite like the Beatles before. Fans followed them everywhere. The lads became clever at escaping crowds, although sometimes they needed help. Once a police officer slung Ringo over his shoulder to get him to safety."

This book is a step back in time for me, while also helping contemporary young readers understand the trajectory of their fame, the silliness they created as they tried not to take themselves too seriously. I have a pet peeve with the oft-times ridiculous questions that reporters ask celebrities. So,  one of my favorite parts of the book are the four pages where each member of the group answers those questions with a little personal humor:

"Q: You Beatles have conquered five continents. What do you want to do next?
Paul: Conquer six."

Stacy Innerst does a wonderful job of bringing out the personality of each of the 'fab four' in illustrations that add to the text, and provide many details about their journey to fame and fortune. They encompass the humor and playfulness that the authors evoke in their words.

A timeline and source notes are beneficial.

Now, dig out your old LPs and crank up the sound; then share this lively and informative picture book biography with your family, or in your classroom. They'll love you...yeah, yeah, yeah!  

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