Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair

by Amy Guglielmo (Author) Brigette Barrager (Illustrator)

Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair
Reading Level: K − 1st Grade
Amy Guglielmo, Jacqueline Tourville, and Brigette Barrager team up to tell the joyful and unique story of the trailblazing Disney artist Mary Blair. Mary Blair lived her life in color: vivid, wild color. From her imaginative childhood to her career as an illustrator, designer, and animator for Walt Disney Studios, Mary wouldn't play by the rules. At a time when studios wanted to hire men and think in black and white, Mary painted twinkling emerald skies, peach giraffes with tangerine spots, and magenta horses that could fly. She painted her world.

School Library Journal

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, WI

Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly

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.

Review quotes

"Walt Disney Studios were pretty solidly a man's world when Mary Blair and her passionate love of zingy color reported to work in 1940 . . . [K]ids and their adult readers...will be rewarded with a story of a woman worth knowing, and they will enjoy the '60s mod colorscape and collage-like retro design that echos Blair's 'Small World' achievement."—BCCB "July/August 2017 "
Amy Guglielmo
Amy Guglielmo is a prolific children's author, artist, art educator, and art activist. She has written a number of books about art for children, including What the Artist Saw: Vincent Van Gogh (2021), published by DK.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Publication date
August 20, 2017

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