To Err is Divine: THE BOOK OF MISTAKES by Corinna Luyken

Lynn: “It started with one mistake.”

For many kids, a mistake means crumpling a piece of paper and starting over, but in The Book of Mistakes (2017), Corinna Luyken’s debut picture book about the creative process, a mistake leads to something truly brilliant. From an ink blot on the front endpaper to a splotch on the title page, Luyken hints that mistakes can lead to something good.

The book kicks off with the drawing of a simple, circular face with one eye bigger and darker than the other. What to do? Make the other eye bigger, of course—a decision with mixed results. (“But the glasses—they were a good idea.”) Page by page, detail by detail, mistake by mistake, a painting evolves, one that teaches young artists that everyone messes up, and that sometimes, messing up can be a good thing.

The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken

This is an oversize book with big, white spaces that, as the story progresses, fill up with intriguing drawings rendered in ink, colored pencil, and watercolor. The result? A fantastical tree whose nooks and hollows are filled with thrillingly detailed scenes that, as the reader’s perspective shifts, turns into a new surprise.

Luyken’s book rewards repeat readers. What stands out each time is the reassuring notion that mistakes can be doorways to discovery.

Cindy: This book has so many potential uses, art-class discussion about the role of mistakes in the creative process most obvious among them. Youth-group leaders and high-school counselors might use it to springboard conversations about how real-life mistakes don’t have to be limiting or irredeemable, that we all have the option of turning our mistakes into something positive if we look at the situation in a new way or are willing to adapt. Please note that Luyken’s book is not at all didactic; it just lends itself extremely well to musing about creativity, choices, and perfection. Do get your hands on a copy and leave us a comment with your reaction.

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About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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