Baby book review: Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley

Marian and Margaret review the empowering picture book Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley.

Cover of Mary Wears What She Wants

Marian reviews Mary Wears What She Wants

Marian with Mary Wears What She Wants
Clearly Marian also wears what she wants.

Mommy says this is a biography. She’s wrong. It’s a search and find book. On some of the pages — but not all — there’s a dog or a cat. I especially like the cat. The purpose of the book is to find the dog or the cat and make the appropriate sounds for each, like bark and pant or meow meow meow. The author/illustrator Keith Negley must be really clever. He didn’t include the dog and cat on every page but makes me look for them. I like having to look for something and it not be right in my face. I have many books all about cats and dogs, and they literally appear on every single page. Where’s the fun in that?! I much prefer having to find the cat and dog.

There are some other good pages too, that don’t include the cat or dog. I especially like the page where she puts on pants for the first time and does lots of flips. I like to do my high kick when we get to that page. My other non-animal favorite page is when Mary gets egg thrown at her. I know the word egg! I can say it when we get to that page. Also, Mommy says “uh oh” when she reads that part, and that’s a funny word. Mommy says it’s not good to have eggs thrown at you, but I love smearing egg all over my face, so I don’t see what the big deal is.

I do have an issue with the plot. I don’t get it. And the title says it all. What’s the big deal? Sometimes I wear pants, sometimes I don’t. Mommy says she’ll be able to explain better when I’m older. I’m dubious it will ever make sense. Until then, I’ll find all the dog and cat pictures in the book.

Margaret reviews Mary Wears What She Wants

I find it so interesting how children’s book authors can synthesize an entire life down to a concisely worded theme. This is one of the best examples of that. Sparsely worded, the minimal text and illustrations work together to capture a specific theme in Mary Edwards Walker’s life — that she wore whatever she damn well pleased. And based on the brief bio at the end of this book, she did pretty much whatever she pleased too. It must’ve been a fight the entire way. Keith Negley also manages to make this relevant for a young audience, with images of children, and by centering the plot around going to school.

I’ve probably ‘read’ this book 100 times in the past month. I put ‘read’ in quotes because even though it’s sparsely worded, Marian never lets me actually read it. This book, to her, is clearly about finding the dog and cat, which she does with great enthusiasm. So also hats off to Keith Negley, for realizing that younger readers will want to see their favorite animals on the pages.

The target age group is early elementary, but my 19-month-old heartily recommends it (but only if your toddler doesn’t tear pages).

We have more feminist recommendations for children that you can check out.

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