The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes
Author: Mark Pett
Illustrator: Gary Rubinstein
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publish Date: October 2011
Lexile Level: 520L
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes is by Mark Pett, with illustrations by Gary Rubinstein. The age range for the book is listed as 4-8 years, grades Kindergarten to 3rd.
Our main character, Beatrice Bottomwell, is introduced as incredibly neat and courteous, being exact in every thing she does. She is so famous that most people don’t even know her name—she is only known as “the Girl Who Never Makes Mistakes.” Her little brother, by contrast, always makes mistakes.
Beatrice has an “Almost Mistake” and proceeds to worry about it all day. When she messes up at the school talent show, the experience liberates her to now make mistakes all the time, and therefore have more fun.
While the story is simple and straight-forward, from an adult’s point of view, it is a little flawed. For one thing, the things that the book labels as “mistakes” really…aren’t. Is it a mistake to not use the exact same amount of peanut butter and jelly on a sandwich? Or to slip on the floor and drop eggs? Or to slip and slide while ice skating? No, these things are perfectly normal. In fact, to not do these things would be considered odd.
To most children, this isn’t going to matter. But to children who are not neurotypical, who may display OCD tendencies or autistic symptoms that require them to do certain things in precise manners—the message of the book is potentially harmful. It basically says that Beatrice’s exact behaviors are keeping her from having fun. She’s simply doing things as she should—making her bed, wearing matching socks, making her brother’s lunch.
Granted, she does pass up on ice skating out of fear of making “a mistake,” but that’s where the story’s misconception of what a mistake is doesn’t make much sense.
Beatrice and Carl are the only developed characters (if you can call Carl’s two page spread development). There are no overt stereotypes enforced, if you discount the idea of “tidy, orderly people have no fun.”
The pictures do a good job of supplementing the text. A child unable to see the pictures would still be able to understand the story based on the text alone. However, the story’s message and its interpretation of what a mistake is may cause some children discomfort.
Final verdict: It’s not a bad story. I think it has good intentions. But it’s not what I would consider among the best. I would recommend it only as a one-on-one story, where the storyteller and child can have a conversation about mistakes and go into more detail.