“This is a story about darkness and light, about sorrow and joy, about something lost and something found. This is a story about Love.” (from CINDERELLA, illustrated by Mary Blair, told by Cynthia Rylant)
Who could resist reading a story that begins with these magical words?? Luckily for us, these words are the beginning of not only a well-loved story, but also the perfect description of the life of the children’s book illustrator featured in today’s blog: Mary Blair.
Mary Blair was an artistic pioneer and talent her entire life, but it is her work for the Walt Disney Studios that is most well known throughout the world today. If your children have ever experienced the magic of the “It's a Small World” attraction at Disneyland, or watched such classic Disney films as Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland, they will absolutely love Mary Blair’s illustrated works! Mary was both fearless and untraditional when it came to color styling and concept art, so much so that even though none of Mary’s actual drawings are directly shown in Disney animation, her work gave her renown throughout the studio, and Walt Disney favored her vivid artwork and unique vision above many other artists. Her bold designs and bright images hold a special appeal for children, making her illustrations both compelling and familiar.
FOR AGES 4+: In recent years, Mary Blair’s artwork for the three Disney animated films listed above has been collected and published as children’s stories, with creative re-tellings by various contemporary children’s book authors. Children are captivated by the beautiful, colorful, and un-fussy drawings—a feast for the eyes! Combined with loving and thoughtful telling, these books are sure favorites for any child’s library!
CINDERELLA (told by Cynthia Rylant) A romantic and idealist from the very youngest age, books about the rewards of waiting for true love always stuck with me as a child and even into my adult life. I think that this particular telling of the classic fairytale is an excellent way of teaching children the virtues of prudence and charity. As an example of its beauty, allow me to share with you my favorite quote from the book: “Who can say by what mystery two people find each other in this great wide world?” (*note: see my previous post about Cinderella for more wonderful tellings of this beautiful story!)
|Cinderella watching, as her pumpkin becomes a coach!|
|Cinderella's coach arrives at the ball!|
ALICE IN WONDERLAND (told by Jon Scieszka) If you feel that Lewis Caroll’s original novel is a bit too mature for your younger children, this rendition of his story is the perfect way to introduce them to Alice’s whimsical Wonderland. I especially love the quirky tea party images and the very bright colors throughout the entire storybook!
|Alice at the Mad Hatter and March Hare’s Un-Birthday Tea Party|
PETER PAN (told by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson) The classic J.M. Barrie novel, Peter Pan, has held a dear place in my heart since 8th grade, and I have read it again and again! However, children may not pick up on Barrie’s satire and subtleties in his original work, so a picture-book telling is a much more appropriate beginning to this classic tale of responsibility and growing up. The very geometric illustrations capture all the beauty of the Neverland, and the rather child-like character of the drawings is quaint and lovable.
|Peter with the Mermaids (front cover)|
FOR AGES 1-4: Blair also worked as an illustrator for the Little Golden Books for a short while, illustrating I CAN FLY, BABY'S HOUSE, THE GOLDEN BOOK OF LITTLE VERSES, and THE NEW GOLDEN SONGBOOK. “Charming” is truly the best possible description of these adorable illustrations, and they will especially be appreciated by toddlers and very young children, but also by the adults who have the pleasure of sharing them!
|The author and her mom at Shakespeare and Co. bookstore in Paris|
|...and in the rain at the Luxemborg Gardens, Paris!|
|The author at work at Disneyland Paris...|