I vividly remember getting my very first 64-count box of crayons (complete with its own built-in sharpener). Just thinking about it takes me back: All those fresh points. The sweet waxy smell. The pristine wrapping on each stick. And the color.
Row after row of brilliant C O L O R.
Each crayon in the box had its own name and distinct personality. Over time, the colors became either friends (bashful Periwinkle, dramatic Magenta, moody Midnight Blue) or acquaintances (gentle Maize, cool Cornflower, brash Burnt Sienna).
Like Bob Ross and his Titanium White, I took ownership of every hue the second I used it. In solitary moments with my colors, I built imaginary worlds and also quietly reflected on the adult world I was learning more about every day.
Perhaps this why I had such an emotional reaction to the new non-fiction picture book Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville, illustrated by Brigette Barrager (Atheneum Books for Young Readers).
So powerfully written and just breathtakingly beautiful:
Pocket Full of Colors - which publishes Aug. 29, 2017, and is available now via preorder - is the story of Mary Blair, a Disney illustrator who fearlessly presented her bold artistic vision amidst the conventions of 1940s animation studio culture. Blair's daring aesthetic can be experienced in Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. She also was the visionary behind the iconic Disney amusement ride It's a Small World.
I was so excited to share Pocket Full of Colors with my girls! Blair is a fantastic role model - a woman who never compromised her vision, despite opposition. I also thought my daughters would connect with the art theme. We operate in full living color at our house. The dining room table is constantly covered in crayons and markers (and feet and bottoms).
And our driveway is always a haze of chalky creations.
Elsa, our eldest, who has Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome, doesn't like to hold things, but cool adaptive cuffs like this one (below) lengthen the amount of time she can hold crayons and markers. (Click here to see a video Elsa using a dot marker with a cuff.)
Now that you know a little about our affinity for color, here are 5 reasons why this book was such a great match for our crew:
1. Mary Blair - Protagonist Extraordinaire
When you first meet Mary Blair in Pocket Full of Colors, she is a little girl who's just learned that she must leave her childhood home and head West with her parents. Rather than sulk (which would be understandable), Blair exhibits her trademark bravery and positivity. She sets out on her new adventure with a gleam in her eye and a color in her pocket (lemon). Right away, we learn that our main character doesn't shirk away when the going gets tough. She embraces opportunities to learn and grow.
2. The Collector Concept
As Mary Blair travels through life, she picks up and collects colors. Bravo to Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville - what a splendid storytelling device. It just sings. The spread of Blair's journey West so reminded me of my crayon explorations as a child. I adored the luscious groupings of like-minded colors, set in different regions of the country.
3. Pure Color Fun
A teal pumpkin coach for Cinderella. An aquamarine caterpillar advisor for Alice. Mary Blair was famous for integrating "eye-popping" shades - collected in her travels - into her concept art. We learn in Pocket Full of Colors that traditional Disney animators shied away from Blair's bold and unexpected color combinations. Lucky for us, illustrator Brigette Barrager channeled Blair's adventurous spirit, in full view in this rainbow-ribboned salmon sky.
4. Full Throttle Creativity
At several points in the book, we get to see Blair in her artistic element - putting pencil and paintbrush to paper. She is always wearing a smart pair of glasses and a satisfied grin. Her posture is forward and her eyes are lit with excitement. The spread below always silences my girls (a rarity!). You can feel the heat and smell the flowers, as colors from Blair's South American trip dance and sway across the page.
5. No Small Feat
It's always fascinating to hear how Disney makes its magic. Traveling with Blair through her colorful life story, we get to peek behind this curtain. And as it turns out, magic is created by people - talented, persistent and sometimes misunderstood people, like Blair. Throughout the book, Blair faces many roadblocks, but she never let nay-sayers dim her light. As a result of this persistence, her impact is felt throughout Disney and popular culture today.
A final parting thought: My girls LOVED the picture of Mary Blair in the Authors' Note section at the end of the story. They were very struck that Blair was a real woman. I look forward to revisiting Pocket Full of Colors with them in the days, months and years to come, as they begin identifying their own passions and charting their futures.
Pocket Full of Colors publishes on Aug. 29, but you can pre-order your book today HERE. If you'd like to learn more about the talented authors and illustrator behind this book, check out their websites:
- Amy Guglielmo, Author: www.amyguglielmo.com
- Jacqueline Tourville, Author: www.jacquelinetourville.com
- Brigette Barrager, Illustrator: www.brigetteb.com