Beatrice Bottomwell is amazingly perfect. She never makes a mistake. She even has a fan club that greets her every morning to make sure she hasn’t made a mistake yet. She hasn’t. The pressure is on, though, and Beatrice begins to wonder if she’s about to make her very first mistake.
The illustrations by cartoonist Mark Pett are nicely textured watercolors. Being author and illustrator has given Pett the opportunity to fine-tune his story. For example, in a bit of foreshadowing Beatrice’s hamster is shown on the first page as Beatrice wakes up next to her ribbons and trophies.
Although treated here in a lighthearted way, perfectionism can be seriously debilitating. I once worked with a boy who was showing much promise as artist in first grade, but who often tore up his work and refused to participate in projects. When I worked with him again in fourth grade, his skills were now far below those of his classmates who were willing to experiment, practice and put less-than-perfect work out there. He had stalled his progress because he wanted perfection. For children who are on this track, this book might be one way to help them see that trying to be perfect can get in the way of having fun and being creative, and that absolutely no one is perfect.
What about the book? Is it perfect? Actually, there will probably be people who have a problem with the portrayal of juggling a live pet. It is meant to be totally absurd because no one would actually do that and it is critical to the plot, but given the suggestibility of some youngsters perhaps there should be a “do not try this at home” disclaimer.
Just as the book is trying to say, less than perfect is how the world is. The bottom line: The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes is a fun book with an important message that never gets in the way of the good story. Elementary age children are sure to both enjoy and benefit from this delightful book.
Suggested activity: Get out the watercolors and paper and make some Mark Pett-inspired illustrations.
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (October 1, 2011)
This book was supplied by the publisher for review purposes.
Be sure to look for more information about children’s books at today’s Book Talk Tuesday.