Just Being Audrey

Biographies tend not to be written for children. I guess because in studying a person’s life, the drama is often in the detail – not something that translates well into a picture book format. However, that’s not always the case and a new book about actress Audrey Hepburn is sure to win over a new generation of fans.

Margaret Cardillo’s tribute to Audrey Hepburn, Just Being Audrey, is a biography, a snapshot of Audrey’s unique style and some gentle messages about self-image all rolled into one exquisite book. Cardillo’s text and Julia Denos’ illustrations are a match made in picture book heaven and Audrey’s simple, classic style is captured perfectly.

Much like Different Like Coco (the story of Coco Chanel that we reviewed last year), the drama of Hepburn’s life – her unrealised dream of being a ballerina, World War II and the hardships and poverty that came with it, her rise to fame and her work with UNICEF – is described along with the themes of ‘just do your own thing’ and ‘you must always be kind’.

Young readers will particularly identify with the first few pages of Audrey’s story. Determined to become a ballerina, Audrey suffers the criticisms of the other girls – “She was too tall, her feet were too big, and her neck was too long. Still, Audrey danced on” and “…her eyes seemed too big for her head”. As the story progresses we see it’s these traits that set Audrey apart and, in the words of French writer Collette, “She has that je ne sais quoi… that certain something!”

There is lovely attention to detail in both the text and the illustrations – spot the movie in a lush, double-page spread showing Audrey in various costumes or, my favourite bit, the description of Audrey’s relatively poor, post-war life in London – “… Audrey had only a few blouses and skirts and one colorful scarf. But she could tie the scarf in twenty different ways to make a new outfit every day.”

Just Being Audrey is suitable for children aged seven and over. It’s available from Book Depository for $17.79 with free delivery to Australia. And if you love Denos’s gorgeous illustrations, check out her prints of Audrey, beginning at US$50.

Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

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