Review by Honor McConnell
Little People, BIG DREAMS is a staple series in the children’s book section nowadays, including at Little Moony. Each book briefly covers the life and impact of a famous current and historical figure, celebrity or icon.
Author Maria Isabel Sánchez Vegara writes almost every single one, which is a feat considering there are now over 100 books in the series. Figures range from Martin Luther King Jr, Alan Turing, Ru Paul, Elton John, and everyone in between. One of the newest additions to the series is the Elvis Presley book, illustrated by Ana Albero and written by Vegara. This installment follows the King of Rock from his humble beginnings in Tennessee, his invention of “rock’n’roll”, his questionable 60’s movie career, his ’68 comeback, and his legendary residence in Vegas. All paired with sweet, vintage-inspired illustrations copied from iconic photographs and moments in his lengthy career.
However, the true highlight of this book is the historical context it manages to explain in such brevity. Vegara passionately describes the influence that southern African-American culture and music had on Elvis’ style. Furthermore, she does not shy away from explaining the radical implications of mixing what was considered “black” and “white” sounds together in a heavily segregated America. Too often overlooked in public memory, Elvis and his music were squarely at the crossroads of the Civil Rights movement -- and Vegara does not shy away from that fact. Of course, one of the pitfalls of LPBG: Elvis Presley, as with all the books in this series, is how short it can feel at times. How can you explain the history and legacy of an icon such as Elvis Presley?
The writing style and content of this book are targeted toward older children (4-7), but I can’t help but feel for a truly vivacious and curious young reader, this might be a mere appetizer. Especially if they are interested in learning about Elvis specifically. Admittedly, the Little People, BIG DREAMS series is tackling an enormous feat: introducing real, complicated, and famous (or infamous) people to a young audience, all while trying to explain the historical context behind these people in 32 pages. Each book does end with a moral, which ties them all up nicely. For Elvis, the lesson to be learned from his career is that music has no color and that he “made sure that no song would be black or white ever again.” Music is meant to be something for everyone, no matter your class or race. I can’t help but wonder if it’s just a coincidence that this installment in particular comes hot on the heels of Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis (2022) film. Maybe. It is common knowledge that cultural trends always come back around eventually. And now, it’s Elvis’ turn to come back around – yes, even the seventies, bedazzled jumpsuit-wearing, Vegas Elvis Presley. It’s an Elvis-filled summer for both you and the little person in your life, even forty years after the death of the King of Rock. Next time you put on “Burning Love”, you can hand this to the curious child ready to be introduced to the world of rock’n’roll and sparkly jumpsuits. (Maybe just don’t mention how his story truly ended)
Age: 4-7 Length: 32 pages