It’s hard to believe life for Audrey Hepburn was ever anything but smart clothes, quirky expressions, and wistful gazes into the eyes of Cary Grant, but Cardillo makes a strong case to the contrary. Growing up in WWII–era Europe, Audrey wanted only to be a dancer, but the other girls made fun of her physical hurdles: “She was too tall, her feet were too big, and her neck was too long,” and “her eyes seemed too big for her head.”
Young readers will get the message: these were precisely the traits that made Audrey an iconic beauty as an adult. In short order, she was spotted by entertainment heavyweights for her je ne sais quoi and quickly catapulted to fame. Denos’ soft pastel illustrations cut just the right Audrey outline (complete with flapping neck scarf), and fans will especially enjoy picking out the movie roles depicted in a two-page spread of costumes. Her later humanitarian deeds are given their due, but it is Audrey’s simple kindness that is emphasized throughout. Grades 1-3. --Daniel Kraus
Audrey Hepburn proves as irresistible a character in the pages of a children's book as she is in those soigné roles of the silver screen. Denos (Grandma's Gloves) is spot-on in her watercolor portraits of Hepburn at each stage of her life; even those readers who haven't seen Sabrina, Roman Holiday, or Charade (at least not yet) will understand instantly how Hepburn's ballerina bearing, gamine chic, and openhearted worldliness made her a one-of-a-kind star and fashion icon.
Debut author Cardillo's literal, matter-of fact storytelling could have used a little more élan (especially given that her subject once spoke the urbane words of Peter Stone, Billy Wilder, and George Axelrod), but she gets her point across: "Audrey had become more than an actress; she was an inspiration. While most Hollywood starlets were curvy and wore glamorous outfits, Audrey would only be herself." And the story is packed with fascinating details about Hepburn's upbringing in WWII Europe and foray into acting. Any grownup who bemoans the way Katy Perry et al. dominate contemporary popular culture should buy this for their favorite girl—ASAP. Ages 4–8. (Feb.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3—In this delightful introduction to Audrey Hepburn, readers learn that as a child, she was gangly and imaginative, in a world of her own. When she announced that she wanted to be the prima ballerina of all of Europe, her mother told her that the world was bigger than she was, and to always be kind, a tenet that seems to have stuck with her for life. She was born into a family of some privilege (her mother was a baroness), but their small wealth was no match for the advancing Nazi troops in World War II. Along with her family and 40 others, she hid in a country house with no heat and little to eat. Through the ordeal, she kept dancing and taught the other children. As the war in Europe ended, a UN volunteer gave her a chocolate bar, an act of kindness that seemed to inspire her. After the young woman realized that she would be more suited to acting, her Cinderella career took her from London to Broadway to Hollywood, but the power in this book lies beyond her fame in the spotlight. Her generous humanitarian spirit is seen through her actions and deeds as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF as she used her celebrity as a vehicle to assist others. With a light, sweet narrative style, readers can almost picture Hepburn dancing as they turn the pages. Evocative of the period, Denos's almost impressionistic pen-and-ink and watercolor artwork is lively and colorful. This picture-book biography is a great addition to any collection.—Alison Donnelly, Collinsville Memorial Public Library, IL