4 out of 4 stars
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Birthdays are a special time, but that's even truer when someone is still very young or has come close to death. In My Little Birthday Princess, both are true of the birthday girl. Breanna is turning 8, and her father wakes her up early for some special alone time before he has to go to work. As they celebrate together, he thinks back to when she was born and how she nearly died. He then gives her a surprise gift, the two discuss religion, and a charming new phrase is taught to readers both young and old.
My Little Birthday Princess by Dr. Beverly Boone is a children's book aimed at kids around Breanna's age. This was my first big surprise: weighing in at 30 pages and full of illustrations, the book seems like it's for children who are younger. When I went into it, I kept making notes of what huge words the author used. For example, "Nonstop waves of giddiness and anticipation sprinkle Breanna's breakfast chatter as Mr. Mitchell listens attentively, providing every sentence with heartfelt gestures, nods, and laughter" is far too advanced for early readers, and may even be a bit advanced for third and fourth graders as well.
At the end of the book, the reason for this is made clear: this is more than a simple children's book. After the story ends, there are four pages of questions and activities. One of the first items is a vocabulary quiz, and in hindsight, this book is definitely an effective tool for learning new words! I can absolutely see a parent reading this book with their children to answer questions about the words used and do the activities and quizzes at the end together.
The story is full of themes as well. While birth and death may be obvious already, I particularly loved that the author showed readers a loving family. Breanna's father is a loving man who makes time for his children in addition to picking up extra shifts at work to make sure money is never an issue. Religion is also a big theme, with the family memorizing a Bible passage every week and Breanna's own birthday surprise having a Bible passage engraved on it. In fact, one particular piece from the Bible is mentioned repeatedly, and one of the questions at the end asks children to compare this book's story to the story from the Bible.
While I enjoyed the story far more once I realized it was for older kids, and the quizzes and activities at the end are terrific, I wasn't always a fan of the art. Some pieces are lovely, capturing a cartoony, cute vibe, but there's one image in particular where Breanna's eyes look weird. In addition to this, the way the illustrator handles people is a bit off. Sometimes lines on skin and clothes are a bit jagged, but it's done in a way that looks like part of an image is pixelated. It's like someone created a good base for the character and then, rather than entirely re-drawing the character, they resized or clipped them a bit to alter their position. This wouldn't be too terrible if it wasn't against backgrounds that are almost too clean and straight-lined, and this juxtaposition is very obvious at times. With this said, most of the images are okay overall, although none of them were particularly terrific.
I'd give My Little Birthday Princess 3.5 stars if I could, but I just can't bring myself to drop a star for artwork that could be better. If this was a book for young children I might, since the images are such a big part of those, but this book has a lot more going for it. I also only saw one error involving missing punctuation. And, best of all, the book introduces a terrific new use of the word "tiptoe" that's so wonderful it's worth a whole star in the rating alone. As such, I'm giving the book 4 out of 4 stars. If you're a Christian household and want to teach your kids vocabulary and about the themes including life, death, family togetherness, and responsibility, My Little Birthday Princess is a good choice.
My Little Birthday Princess
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