Elvis: The Story of the Rock and Roll King

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Elvis:  The Story of the Rock and Roll King Book Poster Image
Charming pictures, story make the King relatable to kids.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Details about Elvis' childhood and musical influences. Brief explanation of segregation without using the word. Author's note and time line provide more information about Elvis' legacy and broad-stroke events of his entire life.

Positive Messages

Even a shy, awkward kid from a poor family can rise to greatness, with a lot of drive, persistence, and hard work.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Elvis overcame tough circumstances and extreme shyness because he loved singing so much that he never stopped trying. By playing and singing the music he loved, the way he wanted to, he changed popular culture forever. His problems later in life and the circumstances of his death are mentioned only in the time line as "medical and emotional problems."

Violence & Scariness

A couple of mentions that Elvis had a twin brother but was the only child to survive.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Bonnie Christensen's Elvis: The Story of the Rock and Roll King takes readers from Presley's childhood to the brink of stardom as a young man. It portrays Elvis as a relatable, regular kid like any other who, despite a difficult childhood, became "The King" through his love of singing, hard work, and never giving up. It mentions that he was the only surviving twin; younger kids may ask what that means. Historical context is provided in telling about segregation without using the word. It mentions that his father went to jail and returned home but doesn't say why.

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What's the story?

This picture-book biography of Elvis starts with his love of singing from a very young age. As Presley grew up, he felt singing was all he wanted to do. But his family didn't have much money and had to move around a lot. This made him feel shy and lonely. It also exposed him to many styles of music, all of which he loved. After being turned down time and again, he was finally able to make a record. When that recording became popular on the radio, two years of almost constant touring followed with rarely a day off. Finally, Elvis was poised to become a big star.

Is it any good?

Colorful, charming collage illustrations bring the days of Elvis Presley's childhood to life. The story doesn't answer why Elvis was such a big deal, but kids who already like Presley's music will learn why and how he was who he was. Author Bonnie Christensen makes the King relatable, showing the shy, nervous kid who came in fifth at the talent show.

Tackling such a big subject means a lot of detail gets glossed over and may ultimately raise more questions than it answers. But kids will get a good glimpse of life in the South in the '30s and '40s in ELVIS: THE STORY OF THE ROCK AND ROLL KING. Christensen uses rhythmic language to explain simply and elegantly. Check out your library or online resources to have some of Presley's music handy, especially the often-mentioned song that started it all, "That's All Right."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Elvis Presley is an important person in music and popular culture. Why are we still so fascinated with his life?

  • Which Elvis Presley songs do you know? Check your library or online to hear more of his music. Do you have a favorite Elvis song? Have you seen any of his movies?

  • Sun Studios told Elvis no many, many times before asking him to make a record. What made him go back and ask every week, month after month? How many times would you keep going back?

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