The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes is the illustrated children’s story of Beatrice Bottomwell who… yup, she never makes mistakes. The book begins by setting a background of just how perfect Beatrice is and how everyone knows and expects it. The pressure on Beatrice to remain perfect is well-implied. Beatrice’s younger brother Carl plays counterpoint in a perfect display of childhood imperfection. The annual talent show is coming and Beatrice is expected to win in a spectacular fashion by the whole town. When I started reading the book I wasn’t sold on the idea. After all, why would I want to tell my kids they need to be perfect when I just want them to be kids? As the book progressed I decided my first impression was off and was glad I kept reading.
The authors, Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein, do a great job weaving an interesting story with a positive message. Mark Pett also illustrated the story and the pictures are great. I really liked the little things in the illustrations, like report cards, ribbons and trophies, that helped sell the story. This story is definitely a must-read for any family with kids focused on being perfect and provides a good message and a good laugh for everyone else!
Pett tells us about his inspiration behind the book:
My three-year-old daughter creates art constantly. She draws and paints without hesitation, dances with abandon, and sings without fear of who listens. She is like most three-year-olds in this way. If she continues like most kids, however, she will soon discover her inhibitions and freeze up.
As a professional cartoonist (and former teacher), I’m often asked to visit classrooms to teach kids about cartooning. Invariably, there are numerous children who either won’t participate because they “can’t draw” or get frustrated that they can’t draw perfectly the first time.
This led to a thought experiment. What if there were a child who never made mistakes? What would her life be like? Enter Beatrice Bottomwell, celebrated in her town for having never made a mistake in as long as anyone can remember. In so many ways, her life is wonderful. She wins spelling bees. She gets perfect grades. She never spills anything, mismatches clothing, or colors outside the lines. What could be terrible about that?
The trouble, Beatrice increasingly discovers, is that she’s trapped in a box. Beatrice can’t try anything she doesn’t already know she’s good at. When her friends ask her to join them ice skating, she won’t because she might fail. She’s so attached to being The Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes that her range of activities becomes narrower and narrower.
This is the problem with the kind of perfectionism that virtually all of us experience. How many adults do you know who refuse to dance or sing or draw because that’s just not something they’re good at? Our children watch us and begin to do the very same thing.
In “The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes,” Beatrice’s world unravels until she fails spectacularly and publicly. The challenge for her becomes what to do in the wake of this disaster. Will she try to cover up her mistake and be perfect again? Or will she learn to let go of her fears and try new things?
Now, when I teach cartooning to kids, I teach the Art of Making Mistakes. Before anything else, we mark up our page with random scribbles and lines, to remind us that our sketches don’t matter. It’s wonderful to see how quickly the kids let go of their preconceptions and rediscover their ability to draw.
Perhaps my three-year-old artist will make it through elementary school still creating art!