“I never think about myself as an icon… I just do my thing.”
– Audrey Hepburn

Fats here.

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.

“I never thought I’d land in pictures with a face like mine.” – Audrey Hepburn. Click on the image to be taken to the websource.
Audrey, the little ballerina. Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

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.

The village of Arnhem that was destroyed during World War II. Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

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.

The different roles that Audrey had portrayed in her movies, as beautifully rendered in Julia’s artworks.
I was lucky to find this collage that features the different outfits of Audrey Hepburn. Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

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.

Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

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.

In a speech addressed to the Congress in 1989, Audrey said: “I am here today to speak for children who cannot speak for themselves. Every child has the right to health, to tenderness, to life.” Funding for UNICEF doubled, and she inspired fellow actors to join the movement. (taken from the book)
Click on the image to be taken to the websource.

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.

Winner, Gold Medal – Florida Book Award for Children’s Literature
AWB Challenge Update: 34 of 35

Picture Book Challenge Update: 48 of 120

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge Update: 14 of 25

Immigrant Stories Challenge Update: 2 of 6

Fats is the Assistant Manager for Circulation Services at the Wayne County Public Library in Wooster, Ohio. She considers herself a reader of all sorts, although she needs to work on her non-fiction reading. Fats likes a good mystery but is not too fond of thrillers. She takes book hoarding seriously and enjoys collecting bookmarks and tote bags. When she is not reading, Fats likes to shop pet apparel for her cat Penny (who absolutely loathes it).

14 comments on “Nonfiction Monday: Just Being Audrey

  1. This looks interesting. I’ll be watching for it!


  2. Fats, I saw this first reviewed on PPPF in December and was taken with it then as I have been a fan of this extraordinary woman for a number of years. I love the extra details you gave us, especially Audrey’s chilling quote from The Thought Experiment.


    • Fats Suela

      Glad you liked it, Joanna! Audrey Hepburn has more quotes noted on The Thought Experiment. I’ve always thought that she was a beautiful woman, and after reading this I fell in love with her! 🙂


  3. Thanks for the great review of Just Being Audrey. I appreciate the interesting connections and terrific photos in your reviews.


    • Fats Suela

      Hi Jeanne! Thank you so much for your kind words. There were hundreds of photos of Audrey Hepburn but I’m extremely pleased at the ones I linked to my review. Thank you for stopping by! 🙂


  4. There is no one like Audrey…a class act! She is my youngest daughter’s idol, and I bought the book for her birthday, we’ve both enjoyed it so. And the illustrations are charming…so Audrey!


    • Fats Suela

      You said it, Tara! Really enjoyed looking at the soft textured watercolor illustrations. They portrayed the simple yet elegant character of Audrey Hepburn. I especially enjoyed reading the author’s and illustrator’s thoughts while writing the book. 🙂


  5. What a wonderful review! I really enjoyed reading this one last year. I thought it was a great introduction to Audrey Hepburn for children. Thanks for sharing your post. And yay! 14 towards your goal of 25 nonfiction picture books. Thanks for participating in the challenge.


    • Fats Suela

      Thank you alybee930!! 🙂 This is such a lovely, lovely picture book. Yes, we are getting there! Excited to reach the finish line!! =)


  6. booksnyc

    Thanks for linking this to the Immigrant Stories Challenge – it looks like a great childrens’ book- the illustrations are gorgeous


    • Fats Suela

      We are excited to take a full plunge into the immigrant experience when we launch our bimonthly theme next month. We are definitely looking forward to reading and featuring more books, picture books and novels alike, that focus on the immigrant experience. 🙂


  7. Pingback: An April Round-Up: Reading Challenge Updates, Progressive Poetry, April AWB Winners and More… «

  8. Pingback: List of Girl Power Themed Books and Poems: Picture Books, YA, Adult Lit, and Poetry «

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