Title: Just Being Audrey
Author: Margaret Cardillo
Illustrator: Julia Denos
Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books
Concepts: child schooling and work, poverty, scarcity, wants and needs
Review: This picture book biography gives brief highlights of major events in the life of Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn. Beginning with her early aspirations of becoming a ballerina and ending with her work as UNICEF ambassador, the book is so much more than an homage to a Hollywood career. As the author explains in a note at the end of the book, Audrey Hepburn’s “life outside pictures was much more intriguing than her life inside them. And at a time when so many actresses are popular for the wrong reasons, I wanted to celebrate a woman who used her celebrity for the right ones … Audrey taught me what every girl needs to learn: the importance of being myself.”
Indeed, an important lesson that is threaded throughout the book is the concept of being true to one’s self. Young Audrey dreams of being a ballerina and works hard to achieve this goal. When she realizes that she is just too tall for this dream to come to fruition, she throws herself with equal gusto into become an actress. Children may be surprised to learn that even something as glamorous as a Hollywood career requires diligence and dedication to work. But no matter where her life brings her, Audrey remembers the lessons her mother taught as her a child: to be yourself and that kindness is more important fame.
There are also numerous economic concepts embedded within this book. Children will learn about the hardships Ms. Hepburn experienced as a child living in Europe during World War II and the simple joy she received from a chocolate bar handed to her by a UNICEF volunteer at the end of the war. It is fitting that the same organization was the means through which Audrey Hepburn later became an advocate for other children living in scarcity. Another story of her upbringing acknowledges the family’s lack of money after the war and her attempts to make a new outfit every day out the same few items of clothing. It can be inferred that her “simple and elegant” style known as “the Audrey look” arose out of the limited resources of her early life.
However, as this picture book is not lengthy and only touches briefly on each important element in Audrey Hepburn’s life, parents and educators may want to expound further on the economic lessons found in the book by incorporating additional information on rationing during the war, the work of UNICEF in helping children who have few resources available to them, and the difference between wants and needs.
As a fitting tribute, the whimsical illustrations by Julia Denos capture the elegance and graceful of Audrey Hepburn throughout her lifetime and are the icing on the cake of this delightful picture book biography.
Review by: Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children