Thursday, August 3, 2023

Between Books - Who Was Walt Disney?

Book cover showing Walt Disney in an Hawaiian shirt standing in front of a castle.

When I was a kid I remember falling in love with history. One of the important moments I remember is a kid’s Albert Einstein biography that I borrowed from the library. I am not huge into Einstein's history today, but I remember the feeling of being fascinated by a true life story of obstacles and triumph. And I hope that kids can still use the pages of books to reclaim that feeling.

Who Was Walt Disney? by Whitney Stewart is a Walt Disney biography for kids ages 7 and up. Along with Stewart’s text are illustrations from Nancy Harrison. The book is a from-birth-to-death biography of Disney. It glances over all the big moments but does not go deep into many topics. With around 100 pages there is only limited space to discuss in depth a full life. This is especially true when many of the illustrations are full or nearly full-page spreads with a medium-sized font.

For a child in the 7 to 10 age range, I think this is a fine biography to introduce a child to Walt Disney or help grow Disney excitement in a young fan. As a biography there are a few moments where I was like, no that’s not right. And I mean a few handfuls of moments. As I looked back at them, it was really items that were actually true, but being the person who can be asked a question and then answer for 30 minutes, items of omission. There is simply just not enough room in 100 pages for a comprehensive take on Disney. But hey, we have really long Disney biographies for those adult fans. Even with it being brief, Stewart does introduce kids to the major themes of Disney’s life. For example, Stewart captures Disney’s emotional change as the studio grew and the animator’s strike in the 1940s showed him that his company was no longer a tight family.

Some of the illustrations don’t feel to be fully on model. But this is also an unauthorized biography. The publisher does need to be cautious in the handling of Disney images. And how many 8-year-olds are really going to be worried about if Roy O. Disney looks just like his photos?

Who Was Walt Disney? by Whitney Stewart is an accurate introduction to Walt Disney’s life and legacy. Hopefully, kids can find excitement in triumphs in the face of obstacles in the book. And maybe it will help foster the next generation of history nerds, if it be here or another of the volumes in this very successful series. 

This post contains affiliate links, which means that Between Disney receives a percentage of sales purchased through links on this site.

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