Kate was considered immediately successful in her role as a working royal. The press was no longer calling her “Waity Katie.” She was now “Stately Kate.”
Kate's every fashion choice was closely watched. By now, something called “the Kate effect” had begun. Whenever she wears an outfit, it sells out in stores within hours. Kate doesn't always wear expensive designer labels. She often wears clothing that most people can afford, such as the $74 Zara dress she wore the day after her wedding. (p. 21)
Kate Middleton and Ed Sheeran, both part of the “Superstars!” series, are each 32 pages long, with five of those pages being given over to: a contents page, a timeline of important events in the subject's life, a glossary of terms, a “Find Out More” page that has a selected bibliography and some websites, and an index page with the author's information included. Otherwise, each double spread consists of one photograph on each page (or a large photo covering the bottom of the spread), optional captions to the photographs or a spiky word balloon that has a titbit of related information, a citation from an article or interview tagged “He Said It!” or “She Said It!”, and one or two titled paragraphs illustrating a point in the subject's life or an aspect of the person’s character. In Ed Sheeran's case, these paragraphs include information about his childhood, musical influences and early career, albums and collaborating artists, awards, and charitable activities. Kate Middleton's information includes her childhood, student activities, romance with Prince William, treatment by the media, marriage, children, and charitable activities. The photographs in both titles are stock images, and they can vary slightly in their quality but are generally well chosen.
The themes in Kate Middleton could have been organized more effectively. Kate is stated to be a 'working royal' , but the text does not provide a definition of the term. Later on in the book, there is a brief description of some taxpayers feeling angry about their taxes being used as travel funds by the royal family(p.26). The opposing opinion is that the royal family earns its keep through charitable work and promotion of British products. Then the text moves on suddenly to an actual trip the royal pair made in 2014 which is jarring considering it could have been an excellent segue into an exploration of the role that Britain's royal family plays. On page 21, there is a mention of Middleton’s writing her own speech for a charitable organization she supports, but it appears without much context on the same page as the excerpt above which focuses mainly on fashion. Page 24 explicitly states that Middleton carefully chooses her charities and supports them by providing media exposure. These three disparate chunks could have been tied together beautifully, and it is a bit disappointing to see them tossed around without any cohesion.
In the volume focused on Ed Sheeran, parts could have been explained in more detail. For example, in the excerpt above, there is no knowing exactly how Sheeran improved his show; readers can only take the author's word for it that Sheeran learned to interact with his fans. I have many such small gripes with the text where I think, “Yes, but what exactly happened/did he do?” There is some ambiguity in that same excerpt, for example, as to how many gigs, paying and non-paying, he played in total. However, overall, Ed Sheeran is a well-balanced overview of a famous person that maintains a positive tone without becoming worshipful. The book would interest a grades 3-6 group, but older readers will want more details about Sheeran than this book can provide.
Like Ed Sheeran, overall Kate Middleton is a creditable attempt to provide a balanced look at a complex role being filled by a likeable person.
Saeyong Kim has an MA in Children’s Literature and an MLIS; she lives in British Columbia where she works as a public librarian.