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Mary Wears What She Wants

4.33  ·  Rating details ·  854 ratings  ·  177 reviews
Inspired by the true story of Mary Edwards Walker, a trailblazing doctor who bucked the gender expectations of her time, this is a fresh, charming picture book about a young girl who decides to wear what she wants: pants!

Once upon a time (but not too long ago), girls only wore dresses.

And only boys wore pants.

Until one day, a young girl named Mary had a bold idea: She woul
Hardcover, 42 pages
Published January 15th 2019 by Balzer + Bray
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Average rating 4.33  · 
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This book cracked me up. We see a picture of all these girls lined up wearing beautiful dresses and they all have frowns on their face looking so unhappy. Poor things. Mary Walker hated dresses and she saw how easy it was for boys to play and she began to wear pants. It made a big stir among her townsfolk and there are funny pictures of the people protesting with signs and such around her. It’s cute.

The most interesting part is the epilogue that is all words about Mary. She is based on a real p
Spencer Orey
May 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kids-books
I love that books like this are popping up more and more. My kid is a little too young to totally understand what this is about, but we talk through it on every read and point out how crazy it is that people gave Mary such an awful time for trying to wear pants. Good patient story with a message and nice illustrations that prove the point, are fun to look at, and don't get in the way. ...more
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Children; Parents
Once upon a time (but not too long ago), girls weren't allowed to wear pants.

Can you imagine?

Until Mary Edwards Walker came along and started wearing pants.

"I don't wear men's clothes. I wear my own clothes."

Mary got a lot of pushback for this, IRL she was arrested numerous times for this. She was pretty amazing, was a surgeon in the civil war and etc. etc.

Of course, this children's book only focuses on her objection to wearing dresses.

Even though the townspeople are very angry with Mary and th
"I don't wear men's clothes, I wear my own clothes."
What a fab picture book which introduces us to Mary Edwards Walker who was one of the first known women to wear trousers! Simplistically told with bright stylised illustrations, this story will encourage young readers to challenge gender and societal norms. (I love my jeans! Thanks Mary!)
Mar 22, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Readers Looking for Picture-Books Introducing the Concept of Gendered Dress to Young Children
Inspired by the story of Mary Edwards Walker, an unconventional nineteenth-century American woman who insisted on wearing pants, author/illustrator Keith Negley spins the tale of schoolgirl Mary in this, his third picture-book. Uncomfortable in the hot, stuffy dresses she is forced to wear, Mary rebels and puts on some pants. When this causes outrage in her community, she bravely carries on, insisting that she is not wearing men's clothing, she is wearing her clothing...

I had mixed feelings abou
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love it. The general idea of the book can be applied to so many things in life and I think everyone no matter what age needs this as a reminder every so often; to do and go after the things you believe in even the little things like wearing pants, regardless of what people and society thinks.
May 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: girl-power, kidstuff
"I don't wear men's clothes. I wear my own clothes." - Mary Edwards Walker

Negley presents a story for the kiddos about a young gal who was smart enough to realize that pants are a whole lot more comfortable and convenient than dresses. Lucky for us, she turned out to be a trendsetter. That's really all there is to this tale. Sadly, I wasn't wild about the author's illustrations, particularly that color scheme.


Laura Harrison
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
2019 is already beginning with some pretty amazing picture book biographies. Mary Wears Want She Wants is one of them. Well written, entertaining and with some eye popping, creative and beautiful illustrations. I love it!
Baby Bookworm
Mar 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: our-reviews

This review was originally written for The Baby Bookworm. Visit us for new picture books reviews daily!

Hello, friends! Our book today is Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley, a picture book reimagining of the childhood of trailblazer Mary Edwards Walker.

Long ago, it was illegal for girls to wear pants. Women and girls could only wear dresses, which were cumbersome, uncomfortable, and restrictive. Little Mary thinks this is unfair, so she makes a decision: she will wear pants instead of her
Apr 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Mary defies 19th Century gender norms by wearing pants.

Inspired by the story of Mary Edwards Walker, this picture book tells the story of a young girl who decides to try wearing pants and discovers that she likes it. They are much more comfortable than the tightly laced dresses that she is supposed to wear.

The backlash for breaking this social taboo is almost immediate. But luckily, Mary has a very understanding and progressive father with whom she can talk things over. He explains, "Sometimes
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love the woman this book is about. She is the definition of a feminist, and the fact that she stood her ground is amazing. Even more impressive, she graduated from medical school and became a surgeon, then still fought for women's rights to vote! She just may be my new idol. ...more
Jennifer Brinkmeyer
About one of the first women who challenged the expectation of wearing a dress. Loved it. Opened up a great dialogue w my 3 yo about the historical and contemporary oppression of women through societal clothing norms.
Mary Lee
"I don't wear men's clothes. I wear my own clothes." ...more
Alex Richey
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
My favorite line: I'm not wearing boys' clothes, I'm wearing my clothes! ...more
Ellie L
I love this book. Full of courage, zeal and wit. Negley tells the story of Mary Walker, a quietly fierce woman, who, amongst many achievements, was a champion for womens rights by standing against gendered norms. Most specifically in this story, Mary defied the uncomfortable impractical dresses that women were expected to wear in the 1800s. Perhaps portrayed a little earlier in Negley's text than in her real life- this young Mary really was ahead of her times.
When Walker decides to go to school
I found this book too late for my National Board lesson...but this is a PERFECT picture book biography of a Mighty Girl...and interestingly enough, in our library it's not cataloged as a biography...

The story of little Mary Walker, a girl with a mind of her own...who likes the freedom of the early 1800's, when that JUST DID NOT HAPPEN. She was ostracized...criticized. She was gossiped about. But she liked wearing pants. She could run and jump and play. Her classmates joined the adults
MeganRuth - Alohamora Open a Book
"Mary didn't understand why everyone cared so much about what she wore.
They've never seen a girl wearing pants before, said her father. Sometimes people get scared of what they don't understand."

"I'm not wearing boys' clothes. I'm wearing MY clothes!"

A fantastic story based on Mary Edwards Walker. Mary Walker lived in the 19th century. She wore pants, arrested for doing so, became a doctor, and a surgeon in the Civil War. She was most definitely an activist for women and fighting "social norm
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children
This is loosely based on Mary Edwards Walker. Walker was a trailblazer by wearing pants instead of dresses, attending medical school, volunteering as an army surgeon during the Civil War, and so much more.

Mary Wears What She Wants is a standout in the field of picture books breaking gender stereotypes. While Mary breaks social protocol by wearing pants, she also experiences social backlash and doubts her decision. However, her decision ultimately paves the way for other girls in her class to we
Young Mary hates wearing dresses all of the time. It's so restricting! She can't bend over to pet her cat or play on the playground with the boys. One day she decides to wear pants to school. This causes such an uproar that Mary isn't sure she made the right choice. Her father helps her understand that she must do what's right for her. Thus, the pants-wearing continues!

Fantastic picture book bio of Mary Edwards Walker!
Katrina Clohessy
May 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Well-told story of Mary Edwards Walker, who ditched dresses for pants in the 1800s (and went on to do many other things “not allowed” for women. A great reminder of past social norms and ridiculous expectations for women, and how individuals can lead to broader cultural change. Format is somewhat of a picture book biography, though classified as fiction at my library. It’s short enough that it may do well in a storytime for older kids
Cara Byrne
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love this book for so many reasons. First, the illustrations (with their unique color scheme and great use of pattern) are wonderful. Second, Negley has found an interesting way to present a history long forgotten by many. And finally, this is a great compliment to books I teach about gender nonconformity (like Sparkle Boy, Julian is a Mermain, and Morris Micklewhite).
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars.

I'm a big fan of Dr. Mary Edwards Walker so this was a natural choice for me to pick up. It is a cute introduction to a brilliant woman and to an important subject. I do wish it had given more info about Walker as part of the story, and I felt like the story was perhaps a bit too optimistic, even for a children's book, but overall I really liked it.
Kristina Jean Lareau
A delightfully imaginative and entertaining mini-bio of Mary Walker, the woman who wore pants. Not only is the text concise, the use of color and white space is expertly illustrated. An informative author's note gives more info about Mary Walker's life. Truly a delightful book. ...more
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is beautifully illustrated and wonderful. I love that there are more children's books coming out giving a re-telling of someone who did something bold in history. This one about Mary Walker didn't disappoint and you KNOW I had to wear pants today. ...more
Jenny Yergin
Mar 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love this! Its a great way for children to learn about Mary Walker and all that she accomplished for women. The artwork is gorgeous and is perfect for the story. I am very thankful she was such a pioneer for women's rights. ...more
Frankie S
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What!? I couldn't believe that girls couldn't wear pants back then since my sister and everyone wears them all the time now. "I think everyone should just worry about themselves." My mom and I thought it was neat that the book was based on a true story. ...more
Apr 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
LGBTQ adjacent tale about Mary Walker, who challenged gender roles to become a doctor, wear pants, and win a Congressional Meal of Honor for her work in the Civil Way.
Solange Guillen
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
“I don’t wear men’s clothes, I wear my own clothes.”

Inspiring stories like Mary Walker’s must be shared with everybody regardless of their age.
Feb 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
The illustrations are gorgeous, and I appreciate the ways that this has been both adapted for children and retained some historical accuracy (e.g. Mary Edwards Walker was chased by schoolboys and pelted with eggs, though when she was an adult, not a child), but the ending is a little pat. This is the third time I've seen this ending in a picture book about gender non-conformity this week, and you know, things are still worth doing even if your classmates don't all band together to support you! ...more
Feb 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children-s-books
This book is AMAZING. Based on a real human (Mary Edwards Walker), MARY WEARS WHAT SHE WANTS is an empowering book about choice and defying gendered restrictions. The writing style balances seriousness and fun, and Negley's illustrations are whimsical and add so much to the text (sometimes speaking for their own). I bought this book for my niece, and I am so excited to read it to her. Love, love, love. ...more
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Keith's work has appeared on book covers, children's books, t-shirts, album covers, posters, skateboard decks, and even a watch. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and New Yorker in addition to many other national publications. He received his BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 2000, and his MFA from The School of Visual Arts in New York City in 2013 and doesn’t ...more

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