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Posts Tagged ‘disney’

Welcome Back, Snow White

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 14, 2014

One day, the Seven Dwarfs receive a letter from the castle. It’s from Snow White, letting them know that she’ll be visiting. The dwarfs are very excited to see her, but their house is a mess! Will they be able to clean up in time for Snow White’s visit?

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The eleventh book in the Disney Fun-to-Read Library, Welcome Back, Snow White is about working together to accomplish something too difficult to do alone. When the dwarfs attempt to clean the house individually, they cause a bigger mess than they started with. But when they coordinate their efforts, they’re able to get the job done and impress Snow White with their cooperation.

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The art, as usual for these, is nice enough. It looks very like the film transferred to the page. Of course, what made Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs a great work of animation was the realistic, fluid quality of the movement–it’s not enough for a book to copy its character designs. This book, like the others in this series, has high-quality art and decent writing, but it isn’t a strong example of a picture book. For a picture book to be great, the art and text need to work together to form a greater whole. The art in Welcome Back, Snow White perfectly illustrates the scenes, but it doesn’t do anything more than that. Of course, this is the quibble of an adult fan of literature–I don’t think I had any complaints about these, twenty years ago.

Welcome Back, Snow White seems never to have been reprinted, but it is still readily available used. Though one must wonder about all the comments like “Minor shelf wear. Never read.” that show up on Amazon–each a tiny tragedy!

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Wise Grandma Duck

Posted by Tracy Poff on March 12, 2014

Donald Duck and his nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie are headed for Grandma’s for vacation. When they arrive, she tells them that her farmhand has gone, and now she has no one to do the chores. The kids enthusiastically offer to help, but Donald is more reticent–farm work was not in his vacation plans! Donald suffers a series of mysterious injuries and ailments, which conveniently clear up just about the time the work is done. Will Donald get away with his laziness?

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Wise Grandma Duck is the tenth book in the Disney Fun-to-Read Library, and the title pretty much gives away that Donald isn’t going to be successful in his trickery. The fun of this book is in seeing the ways his subterfuge is revealed, and how he gets his comeuppance in the end. Like Mickey Meets the Giant, this is a story of the triumph of the clever. Also like Mickey Meets the Giant, this is one of the best books in the Disney Fun-to-Read Library.

Grandma Duck shows her cleverness in little ways throughout the story. When Donald is pretending to have a sore arm, she asks his nephews to throw him an apple. When he, unthinking, catches it with his ‘sore’ arm, she simply comments that she’s glad his arm is better. She might have believed him the first time he claimed to be unable to work, but he didn’t keep her in the dark for long.

In the end, Grandma Duck prepares a huge feast for everyone, giving each what he’s worked for: corn on the cob for Louie, apple pie for Huey, and pumpkin pie for Dewey–and a tray of medicine for Donald!

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Like the other books in this series, the artwork is high-quality and on-model. It’s got a few illustrations that are fairly amusing, but there’s nothing really outstanding.

Wise Grandma Duck may not be the best children’s literature has to offer, but, as the series promises, it is fun to read. The series seems not to have been reprinted, but there are still many copies available used, if you’re trying to complete your collection.

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Wendy’s Adventure in Never Land

Posted by Tracy Poff on August 16, 2011


When Wendy, John, and Michael are told that they are too old to have a pillow fight, they declare that they hope never to grow up, if it means they have to become boring, joyless adults. Wendy wishes for Peter Pan to come and take them away to Never Land, so they’ll never have to grow up. Will they change their minds? Find out in the ninth book in the Disney Fun-to-Read Library, Wendy’s Adventure in Never Land.

When Wendy and her brothers arrive in Never Land, Tinkerbell is jealous of Peter Pan’s attention to Wendy. When Captain Hook kidnaps her, in order to have her throw a birthday party for him, Tinkerbell thinks she’s found the answer to her troubles. She puts everyone to sleep with fairy dust, so they won’t hear Wendy’s cries.

When they awaken, and can’t find Wendy, Michael begins to cry. Tinkerbell feels remorseful, and leads them to Wendy. They dress up in costumes of sticks and leaves and rescue Wendy.

After all this, Wendy, John, and Michael say that they want to go home and have birthdays and birthday parties–besides, their parents would miss them if they never came back. So they all return, having decided that maybe growing up isn’t so bad, after all.

Wendy’s Adventure in Never Land‘s art doesn’t seem to be as good as in the other books in the Disney Fun-to-Read Library, to me. The characters’ faces, and especially Wendy’s, often look a bit off. It’s possible that this is true to the art of the movie–it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen it.

The story isn’t that interesting, but it’s not bad, and the lesson is okay–something like “appreciate what you have, because you’ll miss it when it’s gone”, maybe. Well, the direct lesson is “growing up is okay because you get to have birthday parties”, but that lesson isn’t so useful.

Wendy’s Adventure in Never Land is pretty good, so you might want to check it out, if you’ve not already read it, especially if you’re a fan of Peter Pan.

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Dumbo at Bat

Posted by Tracy Poff on August 16, 2011

Dumbo taught us that sometimes an elephant can fly, but can an elephant play baseball? That’s the question in the eighth book of the Disney Fun-to-Read Library, Dumbo at Bat.

The circus has to take a break for a few days, because the wagon needs painted. Everyone is sad, because they won’t have anything to do, when Timothy Mouse suggests that they can play baseball. Everyone quickly agrees that this is a good idea, and they plan a game of baseball between the clowns and the animals.

Everyone practices hard, but poor Dumbo just can’t seem to get anything right. When he tries to hit or catch the ball, he misses, and he trips over his ears when he tries to run. It seems that Dumbo might cause his team to lose, so when the day of the game comes, they tell him to watch, and see if he can’t learn to play baseball, that way.

When the last inning comes around, the clowns gain a 5-4 lead. The animals do their best, but Giraffe is hurt and can’t keep playing. So it’s up to Dumbo to try to stop the clowns gaining any more points. Timothy tells him to believe in himself, and Dumbo manages to catch a ball, giving the clowns three outs.

In the last half, Lion is on base, and Dumbo is at bat he swings, twice, and twice the ringmaster, acting as umpire, calls “Strike!”. At last, Dumbo hits the ball, and manages to slide home, winning the game. The clowns don’t understand how he did it, but Timothy explains that Dumbo believed in himself, and that was all he needed.

Though the title refers to Ernest Lawrence Thayer’s 1888 poem “Casey at the Bat“, of course this book has a happier ending, for the animals anyway. It seems a little unfair that Dumbo just magically gets better at the last moment–after all, the clowns practiced hard, too, and had done very well. Still, the lesson that it’s important to do your best and believe in yourself is a good one.

The art is nice. The backgrounds are simple, as usual for books in this series, but the characters are lively, and it’s great to see the baseball diamond full of animals and clowns.

Dumbo at Bat is a good book, with a decent story, fun art, and an important lesson. I’d certainly recommend it for young children.

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Mickey Finds a Kitten

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 22, 2011


Mickey Finds a Kitten tells of when Mickey found a kitten, and how Pluto felt abandoned, since Mickey was paying so much more attention to the kitten than to him.

Pluto doesn’t understand why the kitten is praised for doing things that Pluto isn’t allowed to do. He decides he’ll try to act like the kitten, but he is just scolded for doing so. Finally, Mickey realises what is going on, and tells Pluto that he shouldn’t act like a kitten, because he is the world’s best dog. So Pluto decides he’ll always be Pluto, the dog, and he won’t try to act like something he’s not.

This one is a story about being yourself, though it’s got a little similarity to ‘new baby’ stories like Thumper’s Little Sisters. It’s not bad, though of course it’s got only a very simple story. I think I would prefer this one to Thumper’s Little Sisters even as a ‘new baby’ story–this aspect might be a little subtle for very young children, but that’s what parents are for, isn’t it?

This one is kind of similar to the old Disney short “Mickey’s Pal Pluto” from 1933–in that one, Mickey finds several kittens, and they cause Pluto trouble, and he’s treated poorly and ignored by Mickey.

The illustrations are pretty good. You can certainly feel poor Pluto’s confusion. A lot of the backgrounds are very simple, though–often just the wall meeting the floor, or just a gradient meant to represent this.

Mickey Finds a Kitten is a fine book for young children, though it has little to offer older readers.

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The Ugly Stepsisters

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 15, 2011

The Ugly Stepsisters tells how Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters came to the castle, and by their own pettiness ruined a party in their honor.

First, let me say that I was looking forward to this: I have wondered, in the past, whatever happened to Cinderella’s family, once the story ended? If Cinderella lived happily, ever after, then at least they must have troubled her no more. I like to imagine that kind Cinderella gave them a lovely home–very, very far away.

In The Ugly Stepsisters, we learn that Cinderella has not seen her stepmother and stepsisters for quite some time, and she is excited to see them–odd, perhaps, given how cruel they have been to her, but not incomprehensible. Cinderella decides that she will have a ball in their honor, and invite all the men in the kingdom (and according the story, it really is every man–must be a small kingdom), so that they can find happiness in marriage as she has. She asks that the party be kept secret, and that her stepsisters be told only that it is being given for some very important people.

Cinderella’s stepsisters overhear her talking about the ball, but don’t realize it is in their honor, and think that Cinderella is just trying to show off, so they do all they can to ruin it. Fortunately (perhaps), the two mice, Jaq and Gus, undo much of their mischief, and Cinderella, too, helps, though she generously ascribes to them much nobler motives than the jealousy that really motivates them.

When the ball finally begins, the stepsisters have gone so far as to wear horrible costumes, so as to embarrass Cinderella (“How embarrassed Cinderella will be! The guests will laugh at her when they see how her sisters dress for her parties!”). Indeed, when the guests see them, the run out, horrified at their ugliness. Of course, the joke’s on them, since the ‘important people’ were Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters, themselves. Oops.

Enough summary, then. The story is actually fairly enjoyable–the dramatic irony is nice, and this is, in fact, a lovely, simple example of it. Eight year old students of literature, take note! The main point of contention I have is that the stepsisters’ ugliness is noted repeatedly, as though it were some failure on their part. I don’t think that we should be encouraging children to ostracize people because they are ugly, and unfortunately this book seems to do just that. To be fair, the book does (always, I think) comment on how mean they are at the same time, but I also don’t like the associate that creates between ugliness and meanness. Well, no story is perfect.

Unfortunately, the artwork isn’t as good in this one. It looks a little simpler than in previous volumes, and I can’t quite put my finger on why, but the characters seem a little stiff, as though they are posing, whereas the illustrations in the previous books are much livelier and more natural looking. It’s a shame, too, since one of the great triumphs of the movie Cinderella (as with many other Disney movies, really) was the smoothness and realism of the characters’ movements.

This volume is something of a mixed bag. The artwork is okay, but not great, and the story is nice, but a little problematic. I liked it better than Thumper’s Little Sisters, but that’s not saying much. It’s not too bad. I’d prefer other volumes in the series, but The Ugly Stepsisters holds up well enough that you won’t regret reading it, and I suppose that for Cinderella fans, it’s a bit more appealing. Basically: your mileage may vary.

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Pooh’s New Clothes

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 13, 2011

Pooh’s New Clothes is a retelling of The Emperor’s New Clothes (Aarne-Thompson type 1620), starring Winnie-the-Pooh.

In this story, Sly Fox has come to the Hundred Acre Wood, and is showing off clothes. He offers to make Winnie-the-Pooh a suit of clothes, in exchange for all of his honey. The clothes, he says, will be made of a wonderful, magical cloth, which only wise people can see. All the residents of the hundred acre wood come to see the clothes as they are being made, and pretend to be able to see them (except for Roo, who insists there are no clothes). At last, the clothes are done, and Pooh asks everyone how he looks. They compliment his new clothes, and so Winnie-the-Pooh believes that although he is not wise enough to see them, at least his friends are. But the trick is revealed when Pooh asks Christopher Robin how he looks, and is told he’s only wearing the same clothes as always–for no one is wiser than Christopher Robin.

The story is, of course, just the same as The Emperor’s New Clothes, down to a child (Roo) being the only one to admit he can’t see the clothes. It’s a little spoilt by the truth being revealed by Christopher Robin, rather than Roo being believed, but this is a story about Winnie-the-Pooh, after all. It’s a fun little story. And Pooh is wiser than he believes–when the trick is revealed, Pooh wishes he’d kept a little honey, for “it helps to have honey at a time like this,” which is quite right.

The illustrations are again nice in this volume. It’s especially fun to see Sly Fox showing the empty clothes hanger to everyone, and to see Pooh staring at it appraisingly, as though he’d be able to see the clothes if only he looked hard enough.

Pooh’s New Clothes is a fun story with nice illustrations–a worthy addition to the Walt Disney Fun-to-Read Library.

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Goofy’s Big Race

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 13, 2011

Goofy’s Big Race is a retelling of The Tortoise and the Hare, with Goofy in place of the tortoise and Donald Duck in place of the hare.

Donald and Goofy meet on the road one day. Donald is driving a fast, new car, while Goofy is driving an old, slow car (which he calls ‘Bessie’). Donald challenges Goofy to a race to the ice cream shop. Donald, overconfident, makes many stops to wash his car, eat, play baseball, and even take a nap. Goofy, though, presses on, saying “slow and steady, steady and slow, that’s the way to go.” In the end, of course, Goofy beats Donald to the ice cream shop, much to Donald’s surprise and dismay.

Again I say it: I’m a sucker for retellings of classic folk tales, and they don’t get much more classic than The Tortoise and the Hare. The story in this one is fairly fun; not as good as Mickey Meets the Giant, but still nice.

As usual for books in Walt Disney’s Fun-to-Read Library, the illustrations are great. It’s fun to see Donald’s misfortunes as he keeps taking breaks from the race, and in the illustration of Donald napping under a tree, there’s even a rabbit napping there with him, in a nod to the original tale.

Goofy’s Big Race is a good children’s book, and is certainly one of the better books in Walt Disney’s Fun-to-Read Library, living up to that series’s name.

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Pinocchio’s Promise

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 13, 2011

Pinocchio’s Promise tells how Pinocchio breaks a promise he made to Geppetto, and the trouble it caused him.

In this story, Pinocchio promises Geppetto that he will take a clock to a customer and then come right home, but he is stopped along the way by Foulfellow, who tricks Pinocchio into giving him the clock in exchange for circus tickets. Nothing good can come of Pinocchio’s breaking his promise, though: the tickets are no good, most everyone he meets seems to be trying to make him unhappy in some way, and he is nearly eaten by a lion. Ultimately, he tells a police officer what has happened with the clock, and they apprehend Foulfellow. Pinocchio takes the clock to the customer, and upon returning home, learns that Geppetto had planned to take him to the circus that day–but since he had taken so long to return, it was too late! Pinocchio, properly chastised, promises to keep his promises, in the future.

Disproportionate punishment is the usual theme in Pinocchio stories, and this story is no exception. I suppose that the authors feel that children are particularly dense. Well, perhaps they’re right. Sadly, all the really happens in the story is Pinocchio being pushed from one misfortune to another. It has none of the charm of Mickey Meets the Giant.

The illustrations are great. There are quite a few lovely, full-page illustrations (with the text in an unobtrusive part of the image)–though Geppetto’s fireplace in the beginning doesn’t seem to be attached to a chimney!

Like Thumper’s Little Sisters, Pinocchio’s Promise is a rather disappointing story saved by excellent illustrations. Good enough to read once, but not a story you’ll keep coming back to.

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Thumper’s Little Sisters

Posted by Tracy Poff on July 13, 2011

Thumper’s Little Sisters tells how Thumper came to save and be saved by his three new sisters, and learned that his parents still loved him, even though he had new siblings.

As is obvious, the main purpose of the story is to teach kids to accept younger siblings, a fairly common theme in children’s books. It’s pretty heavy handed (“And he never again thought that his mother and father did not love him. He knew that they did.”), but that’s also normal for a children’s book.

The story isn’t nearly so satisfying as in the previous book in the Walt Disney Fun-to-Read Library, Mickey Meets the Giant, but it’s passable.

The illustrations are again quite good–actually, better than those in Mickey Meets the Giant, since they tend to show the background much more, whereas in the previous book, many of the illustrations were just kind of floating in a white space.

Thumper’s Little Sisters is a decent children’s book, saved by the high quality of its illustrations. I can’t imagine even children wanting to read this one very often, but it’s not bad as part of the series.

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