“I never think about myself as an icon… I just do my thing.”
– Audrey Hepburn
Weeks before we launched our bimonthly theme, I visited the biography section of Barnes & Noble. I was thrilled to find a picture book biography featuring Hollywood sweetheart, Audrey Hepburn. I thought she would fit our bimonthly theme, Girl Power and Women’s Wiles, perfectly. Her story, Just Being Audrey, written by Margaret Cardillo and illustrated by Julia Denos, is also in keeping with Nonfiction Monday and a few reading challenges. Today’s Nonfiction Monday is hosted by two lovely librarians: Cathy Potter and Louise Capizzo from The Nonfiction Detectives.
Before reading the picture book, I didn’t know anything about Audrey Hepburn’s life. I’ve seen pictures of her a few times. I’ve seen her movies at Best Buy but haven’t really watched them. (I watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s through Netflix after I read this picture book.) I’ve heard about her but I didn’t have any idea who she really was. I like how this picture book gives readers a glimpse of her life from childhood until her rise to stardom and more.
Ordinary Yet Steadfast: Audrey and Her Ballerina Dream. Before she became an actress, Audrey Hepburn had always wanted to be a ballerina when she was a little girl. This dream, however, was not supported by a lot of people. Her brothers would tease her about being too tall, and the girls in her ballet class would make fun of her.
Audrey struggled with en pointe – dancing on her toes – but she loved a challenge. So she practiced more than all the other ballerinas in class. Some of the girls laughed at Audrey, saying her teeth were crooked and her eyes seemed too big for her head. Audrey knew she looked different, but it didn’t matter much to her.
Young as Audrey was, readers could see the strong and kind-hearted woman that she would later become. She didn’t care about her looks; she was aware of it. Yet she didn’t let it get in the way of her hopes and dreams. What Audrey’s peers thought she lacked in appearance, she made up in determination and perseverance.
Young in Age But Wise in Experience: Audrey and World War II. In my research after reading the picture book, I came across an article from this website called The Thought Experiment which features some tidbits and trivia about Audrey Hepburn. Underneath her childhood picture, Audrey recalls,
I was exactly the same age as Anne Frank. We were both 10 when war broke out and 15 when the war finished. I was given the book in Dutch… I read it and it destroyed me. It does this to many people when they first read it, but I was not reading it as a book… This was my life… I’ve never been the same again, it affected me so deeply.
Audrey lived a simple life. It was not until the part where World War II broke out in Europe that Margaret Cardillo revealed that Audrey’s mother was a baroness. Somehow I was reminded of the late Princess Diana.
In spite of her social status, Audrey was taught to think of others before herself. Audrey taught other young girls ballet routines and they would perform to raise money for the Resistance troops.
Classy, Elegant, and Artistic: Audrey and Hollywood. While Hollywood stars nowadays favor a glamorous life, Audrey remained true to herself. She stayed simple yet classy. Nothing about her outfits was flashy yet all were beautiful. From head to toe, Audrey exudes elegance, even the way she speaks and carries herself. Although she never admitted it, Audrey became an icon and a trendsetter, on-screen or off-screen.
Audrey Hepburn also had a knack for painting. I was happy to come across a few of her artworks during the occupation, as found in The Thought Experiment.
For The Love of Mankind: Audrey and Her Humanitarian Cause. If there’s one thing I really didn’t know about Audrey Hepburn, it’s the fact that she became a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1988. In 1992, Audrey was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for all her humanitarian efforts.
At the end of the book, Margaret Cardillo wrote:
Audrey’s life was not always a fairy tale, but she chose hope over sorrow. Her legacy remains; it is in the loveliness of her movies, in the kindness she showed others, and on the faces of the children she helped around the world.
And if you look closely, you can still see the Audrey look about town.
Endnotes. There are so many resources you can find both online and in the library about Audrey Hepburn. The resources I used in this review were just a few of them. I fell in love with this picture book not only because it was about the hauntingly beautiful Audrey Hepburn but also because Julia Denos’s artworks depict Audrey’s character. Moreover, while there were a lot of biographies and articles written about Audrey, Margaret Cardillo manages to beautifully weave bits and pieces of Audrey’s life into a more concise narrative that is made accessible to the young readers. Audrey’s story serves as an inspiration to all, especially to young girls all over the world.
About the Author and Illustrator
(taken from the back of the book)
Margaret Cardillo earned her MFA in creative writing as a James A. Michener Fellow at the University of Miami. A former children’s book editor in New York City, she now lives in South Florida. This is her first book for children. If you wish to know more about her, you may visit her website.
Julia Denos has illustrated several children’s books, including Grandma’s Gloves, Dotty, and Sojourner Truth: Path to Glory. She received her BFA in illustration from the Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University. Julia lives in Massachusetts. Find out more about her through her portfolio.
Just Being Audrey
Written by Margaret Cardillo, illustrated by Julia Denos
Reading Level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Jan 2011)
Book borrowed from the Chula Vista Public Library.
Book photos taken by me.