Friday book review – The Beatles

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Friday 3rd January 2014

The The-Beatlesroad from Sandbanks Ferry winds its way along the edge of Poole Harbour, past scores of palatial-looking houses. I drive along Panorama Road a lot and it always makes me think of John Lennon’s beloved Aunt Mimi. She lived in a bungalow called Harbour’s Edge that her famous nephew bought for her in 1965. Lennon often visited with his first wife Cynthia and their son Julian and much to Mimi’s annoyance tour guides on pleasure cruises round the harbour used to bellow into their megaphones and point out where she lived.

Mimi died in 1991, 11 years after Lennon was murdered in New York, and her house was later demolished. But she had a huge influence on Lennon and I’m glad to see that she gets several mentions in Mick Manning and Brita Granström’s stunning new children’s book about The Beatles. Mimi brought John up after his parents’ marriage broke up and he was devoted to her. A rebel at heart, he even used to change into his “rocker’s jeans” at the bus stop so he wouldn’t upset her.

Manning and Granström are a husband and wife writing duo and I’m a big fan of theirs. In the past they’ve produced a string of enthralling picture books on an eclectic range of subjects, from Stonehenge to Charles Dickens.

This time round they’ve turned their attention to four lads from Liverpool who metamorphosed into the greatest rock band in the world.

Manning and Granström tell the story of The Beatles through a series of captivating cartoons, drawings and text. I thought I knew loads about John, Paul, George and Ringo already but thanks to this book I discovered lots of new stuff. Like how they came up with the band’s name (they spelled Beatles with an “a” because they played Beat music) and how Paul McCartney woke up one day with a beautiful tune in his head and found he’d composed Yesterday in his sleep).

The book covers everything from their early adventures in Hamburg in the Sixties to their solo careers. My favourite bits explain the background to the Fab Four’s most iconic songs – like Eleanor Rigby, Yellow Submarine and Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds. Did you know, for instance, that Strawberry Fields Forever was inspired by the grounds of a Liverpool children’s home called Strawberry Field?  Lennon’s Aunt Mimi used to take him to garden parties there as a child and he sometimes used to sneak in and play with his mates.

The Beatles is a gem of a book, aimed at eight to 12-year-olds. But I suspect that parents and teachers will pick up the book and be inspired to get out their old Beatles albums and play them all over again.

The Beatles by Mick Manning and Brita Granström (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, £12.99)

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