Local Author Introduces The Beatles To Kids

Award-winning children’s book author and Ossining resident Susanna Reich hopes to acquaint children with the legendary band that defined a generation.

For many of us, particularly Baby Boomers, The Beatles were not just a group—they were an integral part of our lives. But 50 years after The Beatles descended upon our shores, there is a new generation who may not be on a first-name basis with John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Award-winning children’s book author and Ossining resident Susanna Reich hopes to remedy that. We caught up with her to discuss her new illustrated biography, Fab Four Friends.

With so many substantial books written about The Beatles—including many children’s books—why did you decide to write Fab Four Friends?  

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I’ve been a Beatles fan since childhood and noticed that there weren’t any picture-book biographies about the group—probably because it’s hard to write a picture book with four main characters and that big a story. I realized right away that the whole history of the Beatles was too long for a picture book, so, in Fab Four Friends, I decided to focus on the early years. I thought kids would be able to relate to the young John, Paul, George, and Ringo. 

There’s some ’50s British slang terms, like ‘winklepickers’ and ‘Teddy boy.’ Do you think these will help kids appreciate the zeitgeist of mid-century Liverpool?

I think the period language in Fab Four Friends helps give kids a sense of time and place, especially when combined with Adam Gustavson’s illustrations. Plus, words like ‘winklepickers’ are so much fun! 

How much did you work with Gustavson on the illustrations? 

Because this is nonfiction and the art had to be as historically accurate as possible, I was shown the illustrations at every stage from sketches to finished art and was able to give feedback, conveyed to Adam through our editor. His oil paintings capture the boys’ likenesses with a fresh feeling, and he really nails the time period and the Beatles’ gear; I wanted to get that right for the fans. 

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What do you hope children will take away from this book?

I hope kids will listen to the music after reading the book. Beyond that, I hope the story will help young people understand that you don’t become a rock star (or anything else) by accident. As in following any dream, you need courage, perseverance, luck, talent—and a little help from your friends. 

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