I’m a mom of two young kids, but I also have a teaching degree and a real love of children’s literature. There are Disney storybooks everywhere, but a lot of times they’re just long retellings of the movies and, honestly, they bore me. So, I love it when my love for Disney and children’s lit come together in different ways that the usual movie plotlines.
While, I admit, none of the writing styles in these books compare to some of my favorite children’s books, if you’re a Disney enthusiast, you will appreciate them. They are great options for gifts for your kids or other Disney lovers. So, here is my list of Disney books, starting from the youngest audience to the oldest.
1. “it’s a small world” Books
I wish that I had more of these books at my house. They are colorful and perfect for young kids.
I have previously reviewed the hardback book that features full-color pages and the cheerful lyrics to the famous song. (Read the review and see additional pictures here.)
Other than that book, most in this series are board books, perfect for little hands. They often have touch-and-feel or lift-a-flap features.
They also introduce young kids to differences in the world. Furry Friends allows children to pet a polar bear from Alaska, a monkey from Brazil, and a koala from Australia. Christmas Around the World mentions some Christmas traditions from different countries. (It is also available digitally from iTunes for $3.99)
I just love these books for their content, their bright colors, the fun artwork that is inspired by Mary Blair’s “small world” design, as well as how interactive they are for kids.
2. The Magic Kingdom Storybook by Jason Grandt
I was shopping in Frontierland while my husband held a parade-viewing spot on the street and I came across this book. I knew I had to have it. The Magic Kingdom Storybook is written and illustrated by Disney Imagineer, Jason Grandt.
The book features five stories that are based in or about the main areas of the Magic Kingdom. My favorite is “A Home on Main Street” because is directly mentions specific places from Main Street USA, as it follows a dalmatian puppy’s quest to find a place that he can call home.
You will recognize similarities between “Donald’s Wild Bird Chase” and the Jungle Cruise attraction. “The Maddest Tea Party” tells of the March Hair and the Mad Hatter’s wild ride inside a spinning teacup. My son likes “Lookin’ for Your Laughing Place” because of it’s nods to Splash Mountain. “Pluto’s Mission to Space” finds Pluto chasing Martian Chipmunks (Chip and Dale) through Space Mountain.
The storylines of these short stories are pretty simple, but they’re cute. If your kids are Disney World fans, they’ll enjoy this book and the colorful illustrations will make anyone smile.
Here is more information about the book and the author’s process from the Disney Parks Blog.
3. The Mystery at Disney World by Carole Marsh
The Mystery at Disney World received the Teacher’s Choice for the Family Award by Learning Magazine in 2004. It’s a great book for kids in grades 3-6, with a reading level of about a mid-year 4th grader. With the Magic Kingdom changing all the time, this book is a bit dated. (For example, it has Toontown and not New Fantasyland.) However, I still think it would be a fun read for a kid who is familiar with Disney World. Finding a subject that a child is interested in can be a great way to get them to read.
Bonus for parents/teachers: There is also a Teacher’s Guide available for the book.
4. Kingdom Keepers series by Ridley Pearson
The popular Kingdom Keepers series tells the adventurous stories of teenagers who try to put a stop to Disney villains’ attempts to take over Disney properties. There are seven books in the series, including the finale, which was written with the help of fans.
The back of the books specify that they are for “ages 10 and up” and I would agree that these are best for middle or high school students. They are long books. (I have only read the first two–377 and 324 pages.) But, they read pretty quickly, with short, exciting chapters, large margins, and big font.
The author, Ridley Pearson, worked with Disney to get some behind-the-scenes information to help write the details of his books. It’s kind of fun to think of your favorite attractions in light of what the characters did there and what villains they encountered on the premises.
5. Serena Valentino’s Stories Behind the Stories
I haven’t personally read any of these yet, but after seeing The Beast Within for sale at Disney World, I was interested in the author’s concept.
Serena Valentino has written backstories for a couple of Disney characters. The first was Fairest of All: A Tale of a Wicked Queen, followed by The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty’s Prince. She is currently working on a book that will feature Ursula from The Little Mermaid.
These books are also geared toward adolescent readers in middle or high school. Speaking of Fairest of All, one reviewer said, “I definitely recommend this to anyone who appreciates an alternate view on a classic.” Judging by reviews, the Snow White story fared better than the Beauty and the Beast tale, but I can’t say from personal experience.