Keith Negley and I first connected on the podcast a full two years ago (back when it was still called the Let's Get Busy podcast!) when his debut, TOUGH GUYS (HAVE FEELINGS TOO!) was just coming out. Today we're celebrating the upcoming release of MARY WEARS WHAT SHE WANTS, Keith's third picture book.
Keith's illustrations have the wonderful screen-printed feel, and his layering and color palette restrictions make for some really great compositions.
Here's one of my favorites:
For starters, the way those textile patterns interact with one another, first creating parallel lines and then perfect bisecting lines... how can you not help but feel happy sparks in your brain. As you continue to read the illustrations you start noticing details that add great voice to the scenes. Look how Mary props herself up on books at the dinner table, or her dad's socks don't match.
And this is all in just ONE SPREAD!
Here's a synopsis of the story:
From the award-winning creator of My Dad Used to Be So Cool and Tough Guys Have Feelings Too comes a charming picture book inspired by the true story of Mary Edwards Walker, a trailblazing 19th-century doctor who was arrested many times for wearing pants.
Once upon a time (but not that long ago), girls only wore dresses. And only boys wore pants.
Until one day, a young girl named Mary had an idea: She would wear whatever she wanted. And she wanted to wear pants!
This bold, original picture book encourages readers to think for themselves while gently challenging gender and societal norms.
Keith came by to share the book trailer for MARY WEARS WHAT SHE WANTS with all of us.
Play the video below, then scroll down to read as Keith finishes my sentences and shares how some of the art came together for the story.
KEITH FINISHES MY SENTENCES:
The idea for Mary Wears What She Wants first came from... the podcast Memory Palace, which I highly recommend. (Episode 76: Mary Walker Would Wear What She Wanted) There’s an episode he does about Mary that spans her entire life but I was entranced by how determined she was about wearing pants, and I just thought a story about a little girl in the 1800s who wears pants to school would make a great picture book. At the time I was brainstorming for the book, there was a lot in the news about transgender students not getting to use the bathrooms of their choice, and it struck me how, in 2018, we as a society are still very rigid in our views of gender norms when it comes to what we allow other people to wear. In a way, this is a conversation we already had, over a hundred years ago, that started with Mary.
In the story... Mary is fed up of having to wear hot uncomfortable dresses. Back in the 1850s dresses were extremely cumbersome and heavy, not like today. She sees all the boys being able somersault and horse around so she decides to try pants. The whole town freaks out.
The illustrations in the story... were a ton of fun to make. I particularly enjoyed getting to draw the adults. I used a lot of cut paper and clashing patterns for the clothing because I wanted the adults to look ridiculous as they get all bent out of shape about a girl wearing pants. I used the film Gangs of New York as inspiration for their outfits. I got to be as loud and ridiculous as I wanted. Super fun.
One thing I hope readers will take from this story is... to feel empowered to live their truth, and be courageous when who they are conflicts with the status quo. And how significant Mary was and how relevant the struggle she fought is today.
When I wear whatever I want, it usually includes... flannel pajamas, and thick wool socks!
Thanks for sharing with us today, Keith! And thank you also to Balzer + Bray!