Category Archives: Books, Movies, & Music

Book review: His Royal Highness, King Baby

HRHKBHi everyone!

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.

The Me I Want to Be

ortbergDuring my week recovering from surgery, my mother-in-law Sara was a godsend. She took care of Alice, cleaned my bathrooms, did my laundry. She also recommended a book called The Me I Want to Be by John Ortberg, which I picked up at the library and am now about halfway through.

I’m convinced I not only need to buy my own copy, but that I need to buy copies for everyone I know. And that I should re-read this book at least once a year in perpetuity. In fact, this book is already on the way to every member of my immediate family (and I already know my Dad is going to love this guy’s sense of humor, since it’s exactly like his).

In the very first chapter, Ortberg says that he used to evaluate his spiritual life by his faithfulness with devotionals–a daily set-aside time for Bible-reading and prayer. That’s my tendency; I’m disciplined, a lover of routine. I can read the Bible once a day (and enjoy it!)–that’s not a problem. But there is a problem with evaluating oneself that way: a Pharisee would get a high pass! Ortberg suggests that a better way to evaluate your spiritual life is by asking two questions: Have I been growing more easily discrouaged recently? Have I been more easily irritated recently?

If the answer to these questions is ‘Yes,’ then I’m struggling spiritually with peace and love, two of the pillars of a thriving spiritual life. And guess what I answered to those two questions?

A resounding ‘yes.’ Not just since my ectopic pregnancy and surgery, but starting this spring and until now, I’ve been struggling with happiness. I’ve been feeling angry, irritable and discouraged at my job, at home, with my circumstances. So what that I’m reading the Bible once a day? Something hasn’t been right in my spirit.

Every chapter of Ortberg’s book has been like that for me: eye-opening. Refreshing. Bringing self-examination, but with a message of hope (because the gospel is hope).

Based on the title, you might think this book leans in the self-help direction, or perhaps has a kind of narcissistic “find yourself” bent. Neither is the case. This book is solid. Ortberg, a pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, takes us to Scripture and reminds us of the wonderful truths in it. He’s not presenting anything new, but he writes about these truths in a fresh way that I am just loving.

I’m reading the chapter right now on anxiety, and how the Spirit is a non-anxious presence in our hearts. It’s wonderful, and it’s reminding me of the immense freedom I have in my relationship with God. Freedom to enjoy him, to grow in the Spirit, and to become more myself.

Pick up a copy–but not at the library. This book is worth owning!