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Mary Wears What She Wants - Book Review

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by Marisa Quinn-Haisu (subscribe)
My name is Marisa. I am a fiction writer, a blogger, and a freelance journalist.
Published May 19th 2019
A charming picture book about a feminist icon
Mary Wears What She Wants Keith Negley
Keith Negley. Harper Collins.

Mary Wears What She Wants is a picture book written and illustrated by Keith Negley. It was published by Harper Collins on 29 January 2019. It is suitable for children 3 years old and older and retails for between $24.99 and $30.00. Keith Negley is the author and illustrator of My Dad Used To Be Cool and Tough Guys (Have Feelings Too). In addition to writing and illustrating books, he is an editorial artist whose work has appeared in a wide range of magazines and publications, like the New York Times the New Yorker and TIME.

Mary Wears What She Wants is based on the true life story of Mary Edwards Walker. Mary was a writer, surgeon, prisoner of war, political activist, feminist and supporter of the women's suffrage movement.

Mary Wears What She Wants is a story about a little girl named Mary who lived during a time when girls only wore dresses and boys only wore pants. Mary doesn't like wearing dresses. They are heavy, hot and make it hard to run, jump, breathe and bend over. One day, Mary gets an idea. She decides to start wearing pants.

Mary LOVES wearing pants. She can run faster and they aren't as hot or uncomfortable as dresses. Mary likes wearing pants so much she runs into town to show everyone. The townsfolk are outraged to see her wearing pants and chase her back home. Mary doesn't like being told what to wear and wonders if she should go back to wearing dresses. Her father encourages her to keep doing what she wants.

My favourite line in the book is when she tells an angry crowd that has gathered in front of her school to try and block her from going inside, "I'm not wearing boy's clothes. I'm wearing my clothes. Now, if you'll excuse me please, I'm late for school."

I also really liked the positive father figure in this book. Mary's father is progressive and supportive of his daughter's decision to stop wearing dresses. He is honest with her when she asks him why people reacted negatively to her wearing a dress and gives her the courage to be herself. It was lovely and really beautiful.

Mary Edwards Walker is such an interesting and inspirational historical figure. I can't imagine how hard it must been for her to challenge the strict gender norms that existed during her time and boldly demand the right to wear whatever she wants.

At the end of the book, there is a picture of the real Mary and a description of her life. There is also a page with a picture of a suit and pants with boy clothes written underneath and a picture of a dress with girl clothes written underneath. But the "boy" and "girl" have been crossed out labelling both outfits as just clothes.

Thank you, Mary, for standing up for our right to wear whatever we want.
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Why? Mary Wears What She Wants is a picture book inspired about the true story of Mary Edwards Walker who decided to challenge gender norms and start wearing pants long before it was acceptable for women to do so.
Where: Available from your local bookstore or online retailer
Cost: $24.99 - $30.00
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