The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes

The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein, illustrated by Mark Pett is a new picture book that addresses the issue of perfectionism in a gentle and humorous way.

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)
ISBN-10: 1402255446
ISBN-13: 978-1402255441

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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.

Nibbles: A Green Tale by Charlotte Middleton

Far too few books for children offer guinea pigs as main characters. That’s why I was delighted to discover Nibbles: A Green Tale by Charlotte Middleton in the Growing Good Kids award list. It wraps an educational message about supply/demand, and sustainability with a simple tale of one of these gentle, lovable creatures.  

As as child the author had guinea pigs as pets, and her experience shows clearly. In the story, Nibbles the guinea pig loves to eat dandelion leaves. So do all the other guinea pigs in Dandeville. In fact, so many guinea pigs eat so very many dandelion leaves that the plants became scarce and very expensive. There are so few dandelions left that guinea pigs are forced to eat cabbage. Fortunately, Nibbles has a plan to save the day.

Charlotte Middleton is an illustrator and her mixed-media collages are full of texture and whimsy. In one illustration of a cabbage she uses a photograph of a cabbage, surrounded by fabric print leaves and cartoon bugs. The background is corrugated cardboard with photographs of soil. It all adds up to illustrations that are intriguing. Each one takes time to explore and talk about.

You can take this book in a lot of directions. Besides lessons in sustainability and the importance of gardening, you can also use it to talk about plant life cycles, using books/libraries as resources, a jumping off point for a conversation about greed, or the basis for an art project. You could also do hands-on activities with your pet guinea pig.

Zoe at Playing by The Book noticed that this title was published in the United Kingdom under the title Christopher Nibble. Go take a look at her fabulous review, which contains lovely photographs, directions for crafting a dandelion meadow, and many useful links for accompanying activities.

Truly, Nibbles: A Green Tale is a picture book to relish.

Reading level: Ages 4 and up
School & Library Binding: 26 pages
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish Corp/Ccb; 1 edition (April 2010)
ISBN-10: 0761457917
ISBN-13: 978-0761457916

Be sure to look for more information about children’s books at today’s Book Talk Tuesday.

Ferdinandus Taurus: Introducing Languages

Isn’t it amazing sometimes how coincidences can point your thoughts in a new direction?

Many teenagers in our neighborhood are starting high school this week. They all needed to pick a language to study for the next few years. How do they do it if they have never heard or seen any other languages? How do they decide which one fits their needs and personalities best without prior exposure?

Then I met a lovely young lady who speaks several languages, such as Spanish, Portuguese, French and English. She studied to all these languages from a very young age. She has had many unique opportunities because of her language abilities.

Finally, all those high school students are now thinking about standardized tests, like the SAT. Part of these tests assess a student’s vocabulary. What better way to build vocabulary than to learn about languages such as Latin and Greek (and many others) that have contributed to English over the years.

Taken together, through these experiences I was reminded of the importance of introducing children to foreign languages throughout childhood. What is the best way to do this? One great way is to pick up children’s books written in different languages. For the next few weeks I plan highlight some examples of the kind of book that introduce languages and at the same time appeal to children.

Ferdinandus Taurus by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Roberto Lawson, and translated by Elizabeth Hadas is a wonderful classic that could be used to acquaint children with Latin.

The advantages of using a children’s picture book is that the story is familiar, and even if it isn’t, you can glean much of the plot from the illustrations. The vocabulary is amazingly useful, too, even though it is a simple story. For example:

sedeo, to sit – root of such English words as sedentary and sessile

mater, mother – leads to maternal and matronly

apis, bee – scientific name for bee, such as Apis mellifera, the honey bee, as well as the root of the word apiary

Do you need to know Latin to share this with your children/students? There is an “Index Verborum” of all the words used in the text. It might be hard to figure out things like verb tenses without at least some Latin background, but remember that the idea is to let them see and hear the language, to get some idea of what it is all about.

With the wonders of YouTube, you can even have an expert read it.


Paperback: 80 pages
Publisher: David R Godine (October 1, 2000)
Language: Latin
ISBN-10: 1567921272
ISBN-13: 978-1567921274

Be sure to look for more information about children’s books at today’s Book Talk Tuesday.

Raggin’ Jazzin’ Rockin’: A History of American Musical Instrument Makers

When I saw Raggin’ Jazzin’ Rockin’: A History of American Musical Instrument Makers by Susan VanHecke, I knew my family would be interested. Ever since we had read about the development of the oddly named but fascinating Electronic Sackbut, we have been enjoying the technology/invention side of musical instruments.

VanHecke’s book covers the invention and development of eight of America’s biggest musical instrument companies, including:

  • Zildjian cymbals
  • Steinway pianos
  • C.G. Conn band instruments
  • C.F. Martin guitars
  • William Ludwig drums
  • Hammond electronic organs
  • Fender Electric Guitar
  • Bob Moog synthesizers

The book includes numerous photographs, including some in color. According to the promotional materials, there are over 200 images.

Raggin’ Jazzin’ Rockin’: A History of American Musical Instrument Makers will appeal to motivated middle grade students as well as young adults. It is likely to intrigue not only musicians, but also those interested in science/technology or history. In fact, in “A Closing Note,” the author mentions Ben Franklin’s invention of the armonica, which we had read about in Ben Franklin: His Wit and Wisdom from A to Z by Alan Schroeder.

Part of the proceeds from the book are donated to the music-in-schools advocacy group

Hardcover: 140 pages
Publisher: Boyds Mills Press (April 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 1590785746
ISBN-13: 978-1590785744

Be sure to look for more information about children’s books at today’s Book Talk Tuesday.