Pocket Full of Colors is a relatively new picture book that was released in 2017, written by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville, and illustrated by Brigette Barrager. It is a nonfiction text about Mary Blair, the artist behind the Disney ride called “It’s A Small World.” While it is about Mary Blair’s life, it is not the format of an informational text, but rather like a typical picture book. It’s exciting and colorful illustrations make this biography engaging and interesting to read, and children will thoroughly enjoy getting to know Ms. Blair through reading this story of her life.
At the beginning of the story, you learn about how Mary Blair grew up loving colors. She wanted to continuously learn new ones, and use them in her paintings. When she grew up, this translated into her work. She got a job at Walt Disney helping to design some of the artwork for their movies. She was one of the first women to ever be hired, and she was excited for the prospect of using her colors to create as her profession. However, she faced a company run by men in the 1940s, where the animations were done in black and white and no one wanted to hear her opinions and where her colors were rejected. She quit this job to go elsewhere, where she was free to use her colors to her heart’s content. Eventually, Walt Disney himself contacted her to help him create a new ride for his park—It’s A Small World. He would need her immense knowledge of colors to design it. Upon making a deal with him that she was in charge, she agreed to create the ride that is still loved by so many children to this day.
While this book is full of interesting facts about Mary Blair’s life and her experiences with Disney, it is amazing to read and full of beautiful illustrations to match Mary Blair’s affinity towards using color in her art. Children of all ages will love this biography teaching about how a Disney ride came to be and about an artist whose progressive artwork came to be recognized despite gender inequality within the workplace and setbacks in her career.
Pocket Full of Colors is also rich with opportunities for academic language. It contains countless names of non-typical colors, which can be used as instruction in the classroom. It also provides opportunities for enactment! Have students become Mary Blair and act out scenes from the book, or paint like her using colors beyond your imagination as an art integration activity.
This book would be a great addition to a classroom library, and to classroom instruction on topics such as influential women, biographies, reading nonfiction texts, comparing and contrasting to other texts or even to learn about history. It has so many facets where it can fit into a lesson and enhance students’ reading literacy skills alongside content that is being taught in the classroom. It is one of my favorite new picture books, and I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I did!