Artist Mary Blair uses intense colors in world-famous creations.
When her family moves away from her childhood house, which is lemon yellow, Blair “tuck[s] her friend lemon in her pocket,” memorizing that color. Growing up, she collects color after color in her mind: russet, azure, viridian, cerulean, celadon. As one of the first women to work at Walt Disney Studios, she contributes to Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, and Peter Pan but is stymied by male bosses, who declare her work (such as magenta flying horses) “too vivid, too wild.” She leaves to do advertising, book illustration, and stage sets, but Disney himself invites her back to work on a new ride called “It’s a Small World.” Blair, white and blonde, “had never been to places like China or Morocco or Kathmandu…but her colors had.” That assertion reads as an excuse for something Guglielmo and Tourville never mention: real-world criticism of Small World for reductive exoticism of race, nationality, and ethnicity. Other instances of color personification, in contrast, are pure fun: colors “run and dance”; they “encourage…[Blair] to leave the men with their black lines and strict rules.” Some of Barrager’s hues clash with their textual descriptions, but her playful swirls are energetic. Subtitle notwithstanding, the text is nonrhyming.
A bright homage to Blair’s bold work, though shown through rose-colored glasses. (authors’ note) (Picture book/biography. 5-8)