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The Picture Book Buzz

Benford Draws a Blank - The Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

It's so easy for our expectations, inner critic, or lack of confidence to dampen or block our creativity. Preventing us from even starting a project. This book acknowledges and empathizes with these feelings and playfully provides ideas for relaxing and connecting with our creativity.

Benford Draws a Blank

Author: Danielle Dufayet

Illustrator: Katia Klein

Publisher: Capstone Editions (2023)

Ages: 4-7



Creativity, painter's (writer's) block, perfectionism, and self-confidence.


Benford loves art, and his very first canvas is ready and waiting! But he can't think of a single thing to paint. Not one! Nothing! His mind is completely BLANK! How will Benford break free from his painter's block? Author Danielle Dufayet highlights the importance of believing in yourself, having confidence, and trusting your talent in this encouraging picture book. After all, there are no mistakes in art--just chances to be creative and inspired.

Opening Lines:

Benford loved art.

One year, he got the best birthday surprise ever—his very

first easel and canvas! It was big and beautiful and perfect.

What I LOVED about this book:

For art loving Benford, the present of an easel and canvas was amazing. There were "hundreds, thousands, millions of possibilities" for what to paint on the canvas. But as Benford looked at the canvas, determined to create the perfect painting - "his mind went ...."

Text © Danielle Dufayet, 2023. Image © Katia Klein, 2023.

Kids and adults will relate to facing a big, empty, white space. To pressuring themselves to create the perfect image or line of text. Katia Klein does such a great job of representing this overwhelming, oppressive feeling with all this white space, a tiny Benford, and big block lettering of a single word.

Agonizing over what to paint, Benford tries to copy (meticulously) an image from an art book or draw something (anything) in his sketch book. Neither works and his stress only increases. I love the antics of his dog, Van Gough, who assumes some spectacular poses throughout the book trying to help spark an idea. Which of course go totally unseen by Benford. Kids will enjoy following Van Gough, and the unnamed cat Katia Klein added, as they react to the canvas and their boy.

Text © Danielle Dufayet, 2023. Image © Katia Klein, 2023.

When a snack doesn't help, Benford heads outside to play with Van Gough. But crazily, everything Benford sees seems to be a square and he feels like the canvas is stalking him. The eyeballs and gentle personification of the canvas are ingenious. Finally, Benford tries to paint what he sees outside his window. But it doesn't live up to the perfect painting Benford wants to create. So in frustration, he splats, splooshes, and splotches paint on the canvas.

Text © Danielle Dufayet, 2023. Image © Katia Klein, 2023.

The illustration does such a fantastic job of capturing Benford's frustration and anger and the catharsis that occurs in letting go of his expectations, perfectionism, and stress and just having fun. Of playing without a plan. Ultimately, Benford discovers how to make the painting "just right." A "Block the Blanks" list in the back encapsulates strategies which the text has modeled for calming the mind and having fun with whatever the endeavor. Encouraging everyone to just start, make a mess, and see what happens. It's a wonderful book for anyone struggling with perfectionism and artistic (art or writing) or any other block.


- have fun making a messy art notebook and then have make messy art on the pages of your notebook.

- try the ideas at the end of the book to "block the blanks."

- check out Danielle & Capstone's "Let's Draw, Activities." (scroll to the bottom)

If you missed the interview with Danielle Dufayet on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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