So I get contacted a good bit by people offering to send me books in exchange for honest reviews. Being a bit busy these days with a baby fresh out of the cooker (not quite two months old!) and two other kiddos running around shouting “Hello, Buzzy Bee!” over and over with bins on their heads, I tend to turn these free books down.
But when I got the opportunity to review “His Royal Highness, King Baby: a Terrible, True Story,” a new book by Sally Lloyd-Jones and illustrated by David Roberts, I jumped at it because, well, we have a new baby in the house. The blurb was endearing–about an older sister learning how to deal with the new king in town, King Baby. Perfect! I thought. Our oldest, Alice (4 almost 5) has done really well with our now-middle child Ben, but who knows–maybe there will be some emotions with the new baby that this book will put into words for her, or help us all laugh about a little.
The book arrived just yesterday, and I read it right away, to myself and then to Alice. Here is my honest-to-goodness opinion.
The illustrations are lovely. Seriously, I love them so, so much!! The stylized drawings of the family home done in 70s decor (hope I got that right) had such a sense of place–and a sense of fun. This is the kind of book I’d buy just for the pictures. They have all the detail that makes you look twice (from the kitchen tile to the indented faucets) and then want to go back and look again as soon as you’ve closed the book.
The idea behind the story is also lovely–an older sister telling an exaggerated account of her trials and tribulations upon the arrival of a baby brother–King Baby.
However, when I read the book to Alice, I think it was a little lost on her. There’s a level that I think is just amusing to adults or maybe older kid readers–which is fine (by all means amuse me!)–but too much of the book relied on that kind of sarcastic saying-the-opposite-of-what-you-mean. The dramatic narrator, in her fury at the tyranny of the new ruler, says things like, “BEHOLD Majesty boy!” Let’s just say my sweet 4-year-old didn’t get it.
Also, the girl in the book does a good bit of, well, (indirect) name-calling in her descriptions of her brother–like “his One-and-Only Spoiledness, King Baby,” “His Really Rather Greediness” and the like. On one hand this could be amusing for an older reader, but on the other hand I found myself not wanting to read those parts to Alice and give her the idea that calling your baby brother names is in any way okay. And I really don’t want to encourage her to observe the behavior of her brothers and start assigning them labels of ‘greedy’ or ‘spoiled.’
To any non-parents out there, I realize I may be sounding very extreme, like my sense of humor went for a walk in the graveyard and died on the way. And after all, the book could be helping kids express emotions they couldn’t otherwise verbalize.
So yeah, there’s that. It just wasn’t for me.
So in conclusion, double thumbs up to the illustrations, and an ultimately sweet story as long as you’re okay with the brand of humor.