Book Review: “Pencils, Pens & Brushes: A Great Girls’ Guide to Disney Animation”

Do you have a budding female artist at home? Does she love Disney history? If so, Pencils, Pens & Brushes: A Great Girls’ Guide to Disney Animation is a book you’ll want to add your collection.

Splashy, vibrant, and full of whimsy, Pencils, Pens & Brushes is a history book of sorts designed for 8-12 year old readers. It shares the stories of 20 amazing women who contributed in a variety of ways to Disney’s movies. From drawing and painting to writing outlines for beautiful fairy tales, there were many women who played key roles in making the classic Disney films we love.

Author Mindy Johnson and illustrator Lorelay Bové want to make sure readers know the stories of these “Great Girls” and how important they were to the The Walt Disney Company. Through informative biographies enhanced with lovely drawings, readers will learn about the women who worked hard to create magic even when life wasn’t easy; who pursued interesting and dangerous dreams; and who passed on their knowledge to others, creating a legacy for future great girls.

Pencils, Pens & Brushes begins with Lillian Bounds and Edna Francis, the two women who would marry the Disney brothers Walt and Roy. They might not have been the ones making the big decisions, but they did make sacrifices to support their husbands. They provided insight too, with Lillian suggesting the name Mickey for one of Walt’s characters. And we all know how that turned out!

In addition to the Mrs. Disneys, readers will learn about Nelbert Chouinard, Kay Sumner, Mildred Rossi, and Gyo Fujikawa among others. Not to mention the women who, when not painting, drawing, and writing, were also pilots! Each biography is around two pages long and is accompanied by colorful pictures. While the stories are serious, there’s a playful vibe between these pages that will draw young readers in and keep them there. At the back of the book, Johnson shares a quick guide to animation including all of the elements that were required to create Disney’s films.

If your great girl is anything like I was as a pre-teen, Pencils, Pens & Brushes will inspire her to grab her art supplies and start creating the instant she finishes each story. Hopefully, (unlike me) she’ll keep honing her artistic skills long after she reads the back cover.

Pencils, Pens & Brushes is available from Disney Press.