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Review of Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire

Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire
by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville; illus. by Brigette Barrager
Primary    Atheneum    48 pp.
8/17    978-1-4814-6131-3    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-6132-0    $10.99

From an early age, artist and designer Mary Blair (1911–1978) “collected colors of every shade and every hue.” In 1940, the young artist got a job at Walt Disney Studios, where men in drab suits found her work, especially her unconventional use of color, to be “too vivid, too wild.” But Walt Disney himself took an interest in Mary’s vision, bringing her on a U.S. Goodwill tour of South America; later, after Mary had left the studio’s confining culture to work in advertising, television, and children’s book illustration, Walt recruited her to design the “It’s a Small World” ride for the 1964 World’s Fair. Barrager’s digital illustrations employ a kaleidoscopic, Fauvist palette and intense patterns in a retro aesthetic that reflects the time of Disney’s golden age. Guglielmo and Tourville’s text uses deliciously precise color names to conjure both physical sights (“golden fruit dripping from viridian trees”) and emotions (Mary’s future husband “showed her rosy pink and blushing red” in art school). This is a love letter to the color wheel and a prismatic snapshot of a commercial artist’s singular style, with a touch of feminism as this woman’s vivacious creativity couldn’t be dulled by “men in charge,” with their “black lines and strict rules.” Although no sources or documentation are provided, an author’s note outlines Blair’s career and legacy.

From the September/October 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.



Katrina Hedeen About Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is managing editor of The Horn Book Guide.

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