Moana And The Ocean (Heather Knowles)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Moana And The Ocean, written by Heather Knowles and illustrated by Annette Marnat, a companion to the beloved Disney film.

We are introduced to Moana by her oldest friend: the ocean. The ocean has known her since she was a very little girl. She has seen her heart, and knows her spirit. Moana is brave, clever, kind, curious, adventurous and determined. Occasionally, she fails, and that’s okay – what’s important is that she gets back up and tries again. The ocean is so proud of her friend, and cannot wait to see what her Moana becomes.

As we are huge fans of the film Moana, we were looking forward to this one, and it definitely had some great qualities. For one, the art is absolutely gorgeous, capturing both the characters and spirit of the movie as well as the book’s text, and even incorporating a slightly-vintage-Disney style with a Pacific Island feel true to the subject. But while the text captured the character of Moana well, it didn’t have much of a story to tell. With other Disney tie-ins of this series we have read, there was a story that was inspired by the movie, yet had it’s own message and theme. And while Moana is a fantastic character worth celebrating, the book didn’t do much more than list her positive qualities and then abruptly end. However, the moment JJ saw the book, she excitedly squealed “MOANA!” and marveled at the art on every page, and the length was short enough for a very quick read. If you’ve got a Moana fanatic in your house like we do, this is a beautiful treat, but as a stand-alone, it’s a bit lacking. Still, for art and fan-service alone, we’re calling this one Baby Bookworm approved!

Pocket Full Of Colors: The Magical World Of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire (Amy Guglielmo & Jacqueline Tourville)

Hello, friends! Our book tonight is Pocket Full Of Colors: The Magical World Of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire, written by Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville and illustrated by Brigette Barrager.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Mary who lived in a lemon yellow house. When her family moved out West, Mary was sure to tuck her friend lemon yellow in her pocket. You see, where some people collected bottle caps or baseball cards, Mary collected colors: steel gray, viridian, aquamarine, taupe, celadon. After art school, Mary became one of the first female artists to work at Disney Studios, but is often dismissed by her male bosses and admonished for creating concept art that is too bright, bold, and colorful. Mary leaves to have the freedom to create, but receives a call from Walt Disney himself – he wants Mary’s designs for a new ride called It’s A Small World. Mary is interested, but will not be stifled creatively again. She agrees to come back on one condition: she will lead the project and be her own boss – and Walt agrees. Mary goes on to create, among other works, one of Disney World’s most beloved and enduring attractions – and fills it with every color in her pocket.

So cool! I’m a bit of a Disney nerd, but I had never heard of Mary, so it was wonderful to learn about her contributions to Disney and the rest of the design world. I also appreciated the feminist lessons of the story: Mary refused to let male colleagues compromise her work, and isn’t afraid to ask for the recognition and creative control she has earned. And while Small World is a bit of a problematic favorite as rides go, there’s no denying it’s popularity or staying power. The illustrations are as vibrant, energetic and exciting as you would expect, and JJ positively loved them. The length is very manageable as well, so this one’s definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

Frozen: A Sister More Like Me (Barbara Jean Hicks)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Frozen: A Sister More Like Me, written by Barbara Jean Hicks and illustrated by Brittney Lee, a beautiful companion to the Disney movie that explores the true meaning and value of sisterhood.

Told in rhyme, and from both Elsa and Anna’s perspectives, our story begins in a similar place as the movie: when the sisters were very little, they were quite close. And while not explicitly mentioning the events that caused Elsa to initially withdraw, the story then explores the other reason the sisters grew apart – they were very different. While Elsa was organized, academic, prim and reserved, Anna preferred to be free-spirited, spontaneous, and independent. Often, the girls would wonder what life would be like if they had a sister more like them. But as the events of the movie unfolded – Anna seeing Elsa’s incredible powers and Elsa seeing her sister’s courage and loyalty – the women realize that the sister they already have is all they could ever want, because they are perfect just as they are.

Of all the Disney tie-ins we’ve read recently, this may be my favorite so far. It not only captures the spirit of the movie it’s based on, but actually enhances it by giving more depth to the characters. What’s more, its story is incredibly relatable for siblings, especially sisters, showing that while they may often wish for a sibling more like themselves, it’s important to love family for their own talents, strengths and interests. The art is as lovely and animated as one would expect from a Disney book, and translates the 3D characters of Frozen into picture book form perfectly. The length is great, the dueling narrative was interesting, and JJ and I both enjoyed it. A fantastic read for Frozen fans and their families, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

Disney Parks Presents: The Haunted Mansion (Buddy Baker & Xavier Atencio)

Hello, friends! We’re continuing our countdown to Halloween with a review of Disney Parks Presents: The Haunted Mansion, featuring the classic theme park song by Buddy Baker and Xavier Atencio and illustrations by James Gilleard!

Along with the included CD, this musical picture book takes readers on a spooky journey through Disney’s infamous Haunted Mansion. Using the classic lyrics of “Grim Grinning Ghosts,” the official theme song of the popular Disney attraction, the reader follows the same ghosts, ghouls, and ghastly sites as the ride, from the Hall of Portraits all the way to the hitchhiking specters at the exit gates, providing plenty of creepy fun along the way.

For such a simple concept, I was blown away by how well this worked as a picture book! Since the Disney rides all have some sort of narrative, it makes total sense that it could be translated to a children’s book. But a clever and unexpected element were the illustrations capturing the many visual gags, memorable tableaus and unique characters that the ride is known for, all in a very creepy yet fun style that really brings each character to new (after)life. It builds a story that is as wonderfully entertaining for both fans of the ride and those who are completely unfamiliar with it, which is the ideal balance. The lyrics of the song can be a bit tripping if you’re reading without singing and are unfamiliar with the song, but as there is a CD included, this seems like a minor issue easily rectified. The length is great, and JJ and I had tons of fun with this one. A must-read for Disney Parks fans, or wonderful spooky offering for anyone who enjoys a ghostly tale. Baby Bookworm approved!

Three Little Words (Amy Novesky)

Hello, friends! Today’s book is Three Little Words, written by Amy Novesky and illustrated by Grace Lee, a sweet tie-in picture book to the Pixar movie Finding Dory about perseverance.

Life can be rough sometimes. Sometimes the journey is long, and you don’t exactly know where it will end. Sometimes you will come to a crossroads; always look both ways, but then move forward. Sometimes you will be alone; have courage. Sometimes you will be with friends; treasure it and enjoy yourself! Sometimes your path will be hard, and sometimes it will be scary. Just remember this: keep good friends close, and rely on them when you need to. Try to be brave, and never give up. And in the end, all you need to remember are three little words: just keep swimming.

This was really a lovely book, and not at all what I was expecting from a movie tie-in (books which, let’s face it, can sometimes be a bit lazy). While the illustrations and text very abstractly follow the plot of Finding Dory, the core of the book is a lesson in optimism, perseverance, and courage. It has the same feel as books like Oh, The Places You’ll Go! or The Wonderful Things You Will Be, offering broad life advice that can apply to children of any age (yes, this would be a lovely grad gift for a Disney fan). The illustrations are sweet, soothing and gentle, capturing the familiar characters of Finding Nemo in soft pastels, and the length is perfect. JJ really enjoyed this one, and so did I. A great book for Finding Nemo fans of any age, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!