FEATURED AUTHOR - MARK PETT
Writer and illustrator Mark Pett is the “authorstrator” of I’m Not Millie!, This Is My Book!, Lizard From the Park, The Boy and the Airplane, The Girl and the Bicycle, and The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes. Before books, he created the syndicated comic strips Mr. Lowe and Lucky Cow. Mark lives in the Mountain West. You can learn more about Mark’s work: www.markpett.com/authorstrator
What made you write the story The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes?
I am a recovering perfectionist and I wanted to write a story for me as a child. The kind of book I would enjoy reading but would also be helpful. The story starts as a fantasy of how great it would be to be perfect. I wanted to indulge in the fantasy before I would reconstruct it. For kids who are perfectionists, the idea of being perfect is wonderful. Ultimately, the thing you fear the most happens and the whole thing falls apart. I wanted to show how it wasn’t such a bad thing to fail and how in some ways, failing it’s best thing that ever happens.
What is Beatrice’s superpower?
When we start reading the story, we think that Beatrice’s superpower is perfection. But we learn in the course of the book that her true superpower is resiliency and her ability to learn from her mistakes. She is the one who’s able to laugh at herself before anyone else.
What is the main lesson we should learn from the story?
It is important for us adults to learn about the roll that we play in encouraging perfectionism. We support it as much as the kids, but we don’t always realize it. When Beatrice is worried about her talent show, her dad says “worry? You don’t make mistakes.” The whole town admires her perfectionism.
Perfectionist kids are likely to do well in school but have the thought that being perfect is a realistic goal, and they receive this message from the adults as well. When I was a child, I scored 99 on my math test once. My mom’s response was “what did you miss?” I know now that she didn’t mean it that way, but her comment made me think that 99 was not good enough. As parents, we should think of what the real goal of school is. We need to think of goals like learning and trying something new. Beatrice teaches us that we shouldn’t take things too seriously.
Why did you put Beatrice in such a grand embarrassing situation?
It was important that her failure was grand in order to really knock down the idea of perfectionism, so the whole town would learn something from it. Sometimes what we need is a really big failure to realize what’s really important.
What’s the role of laughter and good humor in this story?
I chose laughter as Beatrice’s response because it is important that we laugh about the lie that it’s a possible and desirable thing to be perfect in order to truly recover from perfectionism.
Beatrice was in this absurd moment stranding in front of the mortified crowd and she realized how absurd that moment was. If you can laugh about it, you get a chance at evolving. She does get there, very quickly more than most kids would in real life, but that’s her superpower.
Beatrice is not anxious like most perfectionist kids. She is perfect and it’s important to her, but she has the self-possession that helps her deal with that moment.
Can you share a story about a mistake you made?
When I was a kid, I got angry at a friend who came over to my house and I lost my temper. I slammed the glass door. The window shattered and cut my arm deeply. I was so terrified and came up with a story of playing with a ball that broke the glass. I covered my arm so no one would notice my cuts. I held on to this idea that I am not supposed to lose my temper. It was better for me to admit breaking a window rather than admit being angry. I have learned since then that I would seek medical attention and humans lose their temper sometimes.
How do you encourage your children to share their mistakes and talk about their feelings with you?
Everyone has that ego part inside of them where your perfectionist brain would live. I call it “Oogie” and I talk with my kids about how we don’t want to let our Oogie run the show. I encourage my children to draw their Oogie and themselves next to it, so I can see how big the Oogie is compared to them. Talking about Oogies also gives me empathy as a parent, when I see that they struggle with emotions and learn how to manage them.
By talking, thinking and writing about Oogies you can find humor in difficult situations.