K-Gr 4 —This picture book biography of Mary Blair reveals a woman who thought outside the box and beyond the "rules" of art. Digitally rendered illustrations assist in telling the story of the artist who followed her own vision and relished playing with color. The pictures show paint swirling off the artwork Blair created, emphasizing her desire to be free to do what came naturally. A variety of hues with which readers may not be familiar are introduced, such as sienna, azure, viridian, cerulean, and mauve. Blair accepted a position with Walt Disney Studios during the Depression, assuming the company would welcome her artistic flair. The scene of her first day at work depicts her dressed in teal and pink while the other illustrators, all men, wear black, brown, gray, and white—foretelling the resistance to individuality she encountered. Blair soon resigned from that position and found satisfaction in illustrating books and advertisements, but years later Walt Disney himself hired her back. He appreciated her unconventional use of color and wanted it for the "It's a Small World" ride he designed for the 1964 World's Fair. The ending spread pays homage to that very ride, showing a slew of kids, dressed in cultural costumes, holding hands; however, this depiction reinforces many stereotypes and will likely need to be followed by a discussion. VERDICT Budding artists will enjoy learning about Blair and her persistence in obeying her instincts and creating art that pleased her.—Maryann H. Owen, Oak Creek Public Library, WICopyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.
The aesthetic of artist Mary Blair has had an outsize impact on the children's book world, and now her life story gets its own book. Throughout, Guglielmo (the Touch the Art series) and Tourville (Albie's First Word) emphasize the sexism and artistic pushback Blair faced and her unabashed love of color: "On her first day of work, the men in charge didn't want to talk about cerulean or celadon or cerise." Barrager (Uni the Unicorn) laces her vibrant images with visual references to Blair's memorable work for such films as Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. An effervescent tribute that doesn't sugarcoat Blair's path to success. Ages 4-8. Author's agent: (for Guglielmo) Stephen Barbara, Inkwell Management; (for Tourville) Brianne Johnson, Writers House. Illustrator's agent: Kirsten Hall, Catbird Agency. (Aug.)Copyright 2017 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.