Mary Wears What She Wants

written and illustrated by Keith Negley



Big Ideas:
Gender Roles
Societal Norms
Essential Question:
How can you express your individuality through clothing and art? 

Watch the Official Book Trailer

Meet Illustrator: Keith Negley 

We think it's important to talk with children about the illustrations in a picture book as well as the illustrator's process! In this delightful and powerful book, Mr. Negley created all of his sketches in Adobe Illustrator before rebuilding them using water soluble graphite pencils. Then he used cut paper and collaged the illustrations in Photoshop.

Take time to explore the illustrations and ask children about Mr. Negley's process:

  • How would you describe his style of artwork?

  • The townspeople wear tall hats and bonnets, and their clothing consists of crazy patterns and colors; however, Mary wears simple clothing in solid colors. Do you think this was intentional? Why or why not?

  • Describe the book's color palette. Why might he have chosen these particular colors? 

  • The primary medium is cut paper collage. Do you think this medium worked well for the story? Why or why not? 

  • How do the illustrations make you feel? How do they add to, or take away from, the story?

  • Mr. Negley created his illustrations horizontally rather than vertically. Why? Do you think the illustrations would have worked just as well if they were in a vertical layout? 

Keith Negley

It was a big deal from Mary Wears What She Wants
40" x 21" print

Try this Process Art Experience



: an artistic composition made of various materials (such as paper, cloth, or wood) glued on a surface 

The Dictionary, 

Set Up the Creative Space

  • Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley 

  • Foam core, cardboard or paper

  • Fabric and paper scraps, all different colors and textures

  • Magazines

  • Sample "mood" boards (you can find these online)

  • Bits and pieces like sequins, tiny clothespins, ribbon, yarn, buttons, and other found objects

  • Tempera paint sticks (we love Kwik Stix)

  • Glue

  • Scissors

Language to Cultivate Creativity and Promote Deep Thinking 

What do you like most about your artwork?

Tell me more about ... 

How did you create this piece?

Walk me through your process.


 How are you feeling about your work?


I wonder what might happen if ... ?

I notice that you are making very thoughtful choices.

I see that you are working slowly/carefully on this part.

What are you most proud of?

What was the trickiest part for you?

I wonder what you will do next?

What makes you unique?


What is your favorite piece of clothing? Why?

How would you feel if someone told you what you could or couldn't wear? 

If you were in Mary's shoes, what would you have said to the townspeople? 

How are you similar to/different from Mary?

Do you think there is such a thing as "girl" clothes and "boy" clothes?

What if this story was about a boy who wanted to wear dresses instead of pants? 

How important do you think it is to stand up for your own beliefs?

More Books to Spark Your Journey

Julian is a Mermaid

by Jessica Love

Also Illustrated by Keith Negley 

Photo Gallery

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