Book Review: Blast to the Past #2 - Disney's Dream

Click to buy Blast to the Past #2: Disney's Dream from Blast to the Past #2: Disney's Dream

Written by Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon

Illustrated by David Wenzel

Release Date: May 31, 2005
Paperback, 108 pages
Aladdin Paperbacks, New York, 2005
Retail Price: $3.99

Third graders Abigail, Bo, Jacob, and Zack really enjoy being members of the "History Club." That is in part because it is moderated by their favorite teacher, Mr. Caruthers, and in part because he allows them to actually experience history first-hand with a special computer he built. Time travel, and its infinite appeal, is central to "Blast to the Past", a series of historical fiction books for children written by Stacia Deutsch and Rhody Cohon.

In the first installment, the eager-to-learn protagonists visited 1862 and managed to talk Abraham Lincoln into issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. In Disney's Dream, the second book of the series, the kids meet another important figure of American history: Walt Disney. Though the target is not quite as stately or influential as Mr. Lincoln, the book and its young heroes recognize Walt's wide, enduring contributions to the art of entertainment and specifically, filmmaking.

After learning all about the innovative Mickey Mouse cartoon Steamboat Willie in Social Studies with Mr. C (who lets his pupils call him that), narrator Abigail and her three friends cannot wait to zap back in time again. In fact, they don't wait, not even for Mr. C to give them instructions. Once they spot the cartridge with Mickey's image on it, they're off and they soon find themselves in New York's Colony Theater in the fall of 1928, the same fall that Steamboat Willie arrived on the big screen and changed the face of animation.

Less than halfway into the book, Abigail and company come across Walt himself. He is with an orchestra in a recording studio, struggling with blown tubes and dwindling finances. He's contemplating giving up, too. But the student time travelers try their hardest to convince him otherwise, knowing the historical importance of his work.

Disney's Dream is quite a fun book. It runs with its clever time travel premise, sort of a cross between Back to the Future and "Early Edition", and delivers an exciting story with effective doses of suspense and even a nice sense of humor. The imaginative plot drives everything capably, allowing young readers to accept the contrivances and probably not even notice the fact that the protagonists are taking the agency away from the individual being celebrated.

The book is clearly well-researched, down to authentic newspaper quotes that are aptly employed. In keeping with the successfully straightforward approach tailored to developing chapter book readers, a more in-depth history is mostly only hinted at, but references to things like Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Walt's brother Roy paint a vivid picture of the young filmmaker's rise. While it could do a better job of clarifying Steamboat Willie's importance (Disney aficionados will recognize the breakthrough for being the first cartoon to synch up picture and sound), the book earns bonus points for the couple of pages at the end which explain to unsure readers what parts are make-believe and what really happened. The intermittent black-and-white full-page illustrations by David Wenzel are another nice touch, although astute readers will notice an erroneous date in one drawing.

Disney's Dream is the type of book and "Blast to the Past" the type of series I would have quite enjoyed in my early years of schooling. In fact, I quite enjoyed it now, and I think others who appreciate Walt Disney will too. Today's kids may or may not be enamored with Steamboat Willie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (which also figures largely in this tale) and other early cartoons, which some of them might deem as tame. But this book makes for a nice accompaniment to those films and it certainly tricks the reader into learning about an important individual while being more concerned with the engaging fantasy at hand. The central message of persistence is one we could all use. Furthermore, priced at just $3.99, it's only a fraction of the cost of a DVD and makes for the perfect order-adder at Amazon if you'd rather get a fun book than pay for shipping.

Disney's Dream is surely recommended for early grade school children who have advanced to chapter books. It is exciting, age-appropriate reading with solid educational value, a good message, and a well-conceived plot. Budding Disney fans will particularly enjoy.

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Other Books in the "Blast to the Past" Series:
Blast to the Past #1: Lincoln's Legacy
Blast to the Past #3: Bell's Breakthrough (release date: October 1)

Related DVDs:
Vintage Mickey (with Steamboat Willie and other early Disney shorts, release date: July 12)
Walt: The Man Behind the Myth (Review)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Platinum Edition (Review)

Official Series Website:

Reviewed May 25, 2005. The Ultimate Guide to Disney DVD Discussion Forum
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