Lost in a Disney World

Another school year has come and gone which means I get to spend another 3 months catching up on my personal reading list! Even though I haven’t blogged since the first week of May, I’ve already been able to cross two books off of my list–both of which made me want to go back Disney World (OK, let’s be honest, I always want to be in Disney World). Anyway, I’ve finished Walt Disney: The Triumph of American Imagination by Neal Gabler and the final installment of Ridley Pearson’s The Kingdom Keepers series.

Gabler’s biography won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography in 2006 and has received much praise as the definitive biography on Walt Disney. I actually started this book back in December when I went to Disney World for Christmas vacation, but time ran away from me and I wasn’t able to finish the 800-page monster until May. It was well worth the time it took to read it. Rather than just documenting the hard facts and figures of Disney’s life, Gabler probes into Disney’s psyche and attempts to show the reader the darker side of Walt Disney without completely damaging the image of “Uncle Walt” people know and love. Although the chronology is a bit jumpy at times, the formula of the book shows how Disney’s mind worked–he was constantly working on multiple projects and was always thinking about future films and ideas. Disney was a perfectionist and spent much of his career attempting to reach the perfection he achieved in Snow White and always falling short.IMG_1261

As a Disney fanatic, I was afraid Gabler was going to damage my vision of Uncle Walt–Disney was known for his short temper and at times downright cruelty to his employees. Instead, I came to understand why Disney acted this way and found a deeper appreciation for his vision and creativity. I don’t usually cry at the end of biographies–especially if the subject has already died. This book was so well written, however, that I was in tears when I turned the last page. I highly recommend Walt Disney: The Triumph of American Imagination to all Disney fans or anyone interested in the Walt Disney company.

Pearson’s The Kingdom Keepers VII: The Insider is the last installment in the series–one that I have been reading since middle school. I was anxious to see if the Keepers would finally defeat the Overtakers and bring the Disney magic back into the parks. I had my qualms about this book from the beginning, however. Pearson let fans help write parts of the book through an online contest, so I was worried that the quality of writing and the plot would get lost. Most of the time the transition from Pearson to fan worked well, but it was hard to ignore some sections with strained metaphors and over-dramatic prose. Then again, this is a book written for people much younger than me, so I really can’t be too critical.

I’d like to say that the plot saved the book from being disappointing, but sadly, I can’t. Maybe it’s because I built this book up too much. Maybe it’s because I knew exactly how I wanted it to end. Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading this series for so long I was sad to see it end. Whatever it was, I wasn’t happy. Questions were left unanswered, riddles were left unsolved and relationships were left undefined. It almost felt like Pearson copped out on his readers–he didn’t want to give us the ending we wanted but then was afraid he would make us angry by letting the bad guys win. It made for a confusing and highly disappointing ending. One that made reading the series almost pointless.

But then again, reading is never pointless.

Next up:

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars

Kate Chopin’s The Awakening

Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

Thanks for reading!

 

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Children and Technology

For a book written in 1977, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game has remained astoundingly relevant. While this wasn’t my first time reading the book (it was assigned reading my freshman year of high school) I can definitely say that the issues it raised were more clear to me reading it again seven years later.

wraltechwire.com

wraltechwire.com

Many of the issues Card touches on went right over my 14-year-old head: manipulation of children through technology, mass genocide of an entire species, the underlying tension regarding the Cold War, just to name a few. This isn’t to say that any of those ideas are relevant to today’s society, but I think one could make the argument we are approaching the first. Many studies have been conducted on the effects technology has on children, though no definitive evidence has suggested that technology is harmful to children (Plowman, McPake, and Stephen, 2008). However, it is clear that technology provides a different method of “playtime” for children. While many children, as Plowman, McPake, and Stephen suggest, combine multimedia technologies with more traditional toys, this is becoming the anomaly particularly in the U.S. I can say from personal experience that is is becoming more and more difficult to find a child who doesn’t know how to work an iPad or computer than one who doesn’t.

In Ender’s Game, children were taught military tactics and constantly manipulated through video-game like simulations that were adaptable to the mind of the child controlling them. While I am not suggesting that children are being manipulated in this way today, some of the technologies we have do adapt to the person using them. As more and more children grow up using these technologies everyday from a very young age, it is possible that concepts like the ones in Ender’s Game will become things of the present as opposed to predictions of the future.

Maybe it’s the fact that this class has taught me to be more skeptical of technology and to be more mindful of my media use, but the children of Ender’s Game are not the type of children I want to see in this world. For a book written almost 40 years ago, Ender’s Game touches on some very important ethical and technological issues that are still pertinent today, especially since Ender’s Game has long been positioned as a young adult book. Are children destined to become six-year-olds with 30-year-old minds just because they use technology? I certainly hope not.

Works Cited:

Plowman, Lydia, Joanna McPake, and Christine Stephen (2008). “The Technologization of Childhood? Young Children and Technology in the Home.” Children and Society 24. 63-74.

Kingdom Keeper Kraziness.

Even though I’m a sophomore in college, one of favorite book series EVER is the Kingdom Keeper Series by Ridley Pearson. A young adult series that takes place in and around the Disney Parks, it’s one of those series that is both entirely predictable and utterly unpredictable at the same time. I love feeling like I know what is going to happen next without actually believing that it will really happen and this book series makes me feel that way every time I turn the page. Suspense, humor, adventure, terror–this series really does have it all. I find this particularly satisfying especially since it is a young adult series. Maybe it is my young heart that makes me ignore the somewhat cheesy plot line, but I really think this is a great series that people of all ages will enjoy.Kingdom_Keepers-Dark_Passage

I discovered this series kind of by accident. I was wandering around my local Barnes and Noble  young adult section around 5 years ago (you know, a typical Saturday night), when I saw a book with Disney in the title. Since I have always loved anything and everything with a Disney name tag, I immediately grabbed the purple and black iridescent paperback book (along with the sequel sitting next to it) and the rest is history. Within two months, I had finished both of the books and was anxiously awaiting more. I NEEDED MORE. I wanted to walk around the Disney Parks at night. I wanted to beat the Overtakers and keep Walt Disney’s legacy alive. I wanted, no, needed, to be a Keeper. Every year since then, I have pre-ordered the books to get them on the day of release and I have fallen in love with them more and more with every book.

The Sixth Book, Dark Passage,came out this Tuesday and the responsible college student in me is fighting the urge to lock myself in a closet until I’ve read every last word. I’ve placed the book on my dorm room book shelf amidst the textbooks and young adult books grown-up novels already there and every time I look up, I can hear it calling me. “Try me…” Maleficent whispers. “Help me…” Finn yells. “Save my kingdom…” Walt beckons.

Forget homework. I’m going to Disneyworld.