Format: Picture book
Author: Andrea Beaty
Illustrator: David Roberts
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (published September 2013)
Babies are born to fail, and they’re totally cool with it. Think about how many times they have to try to roll over before succeeding, how much flailing is required before crawling is achieved, and how many bumps on the bum take place before a toddler successfully toddles.
Somewhere along the way, though, that little baby will learn to fear failure. Somehow, trying mightily and failing has become a negative to us, something to be ashamed of.
And so it is for Rosie Revere, who once spent her days creating zany inventions for her uncles and aunts, including “a hot dog dispenser and helium pants” (wonderfully, and hilariously, illustrated by David Roberts). But after her uncle Zookeeper Fred laughed at the hat she invented to keep snakes off his head (“from parts of a fan and some cheddar cheese spray — / which everyone knows keeps the pythons away”), her embarrassment and shame makes her keep her dreams to herself, hiding her machines under the bed and feeling too shy to speak up in class. When Rosie’s great-great-aunt Rose (sharp-eyed readers will recognized an aged Rosie the Riveter) comes for a visit and tells Rosie of her dreams of flying, Rosie sets out to make a cheese-powered helicopter to make her auntie’s dream come true.
In a moment of genuine suspense, the heli-o-cheese-copter hovers briefly, then crashes — and with it, Rosie’s dreams take another nosedive. She’s done. She’ll never try again (and who among us has not had a moment or two like this?). Great-great-aunt Rose comes to the rescue, though, cheering her for her “perfect first try”: “‘Your brilliant first flop was a raging success! / Come on, let’s get busy and on to the next!’ / She handed a notebook to Rosie Revere, / who smiled at her aunt as it all became clear. / Life might have its failures, but this was not it. / The only true failure can come if you quit.”
It may not be the most subtle message, but I think that’s a good thing. I think this is a message that needs to be hung in a frame on every child’s wall and written on the blackboard (or smartboard) at the start of every school day and handed out to every teenager upon graduation. Because, frankly, without the beautiful failures of children, there will be no magnificent achievements in the future. So grab a copy of Rosie Revere for the little girl, or boy, in your life who might be a future astrophysicist, bionanotechnician, or harpsichord and double-necked ukulele virtuoso. Because whatever else our kiddos need to do before they succeed, they’re going to need to do some failing first.