Pocket Full of Colors

Written by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville, Illustrated by Brigette Barrager

Atheneum, 2017
Medium: Photoshop

Mary Blair was a female animator and illustrator who worked in animation and advertising, most notably, for Walt Disney Studios. Mary and her imaginative and colorful work have had such a strong influence on animation and illustration. I first came across her work without realizing it at all, by watching Disney films as a childsome of my favorites are those that she left her strongest visual mark on, like Alice in Wonderland, Johnny Appleseed, and Three Caballeros. It’s not just that the artwork itself is so singularly original and resonant, it’s also that Mary Blair was a woman artist in a time when celebrating female perspectives and voices was just not done. And yet her name and work persist.

This book required research (as all non-fiction picture books do!) and it was illuminating to learn about her as a person, not just an iconic artist. I learned that Mary and I had many parallel experiences in our lives: Mary went to Chouinard Art Institute, which later became CalArts, which is where I went to art school. While studying there she met her husband, Lee Blair, and I met my partner at school too. Mary worked at Disney, and then struck out on her own to illustrate books, design sets for plays and do illustrations for advertising. I quit working at Disney (after a much shorter and less illustrious stint) to do my own thing too! Mary waited until her late thirties to have children, and so did I. Artistically, our use of color is also really similar. It’s clear that for her too it was a powerful element to communicate emotion. For making the viewer feel something. 

In many ways it felt as if this book was meant just for me.


I researched Mary’s influences, like the impressionists Raoul Dufy and Paul Klee. I even spoke to her contemporary, the equally iconic Alice Davis, to ask if there were any personal details about Mary that I could incorporate. Alice said that Mary had very bad vision and needed glasses to see close up – without them everything was a blur! I couldn’t find a single photo of Mary wearing said glasses, but I surely did find pictures of her sitting at her desk with glasses resting on the table beside her, because of course a stylish person like Mary would remove her glasses for photos! 

This book was such a labor of love for me, both professionally and personally. Sharing Mary’s life and work with children is so joyful. At reading events children ALWAYS recognize the facade of It’s a Small World, and I love having the opportunity to share with them the woman behind that visually stunning attraction. Pocket Full of Colors won a Christopher Award in 2017, and Ken Burns gave a speech at the awards ceremony, which was pretty surreal! 

The authors and I continue to collaborate on books about strong, creative, absolutely irrepressible women. They also wrote Lucy!: How Lucille Ball Did it All (2023), and Cyndi Lauper: Like a Rainbow (2025).

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