I Am Walt Disney – Ordinary People Change the World (Book Review)

You might think Walt is anything but ordinary.

But the line of books by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos is meant to encourage children to pursue their dreams, to have hope, and to understand that extraordinary people often have much in common with us.  They are normal people who do extraordinary things. Walt Disney is no exception.

Giving credit to Ub Iwerks – Ub was such an important part of Walt’s early work

I Am Walt Disney is the newest in the line of Ordinary People books published by Penguin Random House.  Brad Meltzer decided to start this series because he wanted to give his kids better heroes to look up to rather than “people who were famous for being famous (press release).”  He has written books about Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Sonia Sotomayor, Jim Henson, and Gandhi just to name a few (all illustrated by Chris Eliopoulous).

When asked about why he picked Walt as the subject of his next book he said, “Every year since my kids were little, on the way to school, I pick a random day and instead of going to school, we drive straight to Disney World. I did it to show them every day can have magic.  So with the book, my kids get to see someone who used his ingenuity and creativity to make real magic.  Walt Disney is proof that you can use your creativity to put good into the world.”

Love little Walt and his moustache!

The book is wonderfully written and illustrated and it’s hard not to love Walt taking to his dad with both of them sporting mustaches!  But the book doesn’t paint Walt as some larger than life figure.  It shows the times he failed and more importantly how he persevered.  It shows Walt making mistakes (like painting the side of his house with tar!).  And it shows how he didn’t do it alone.  It gives more credit to Ub Iwerks than he is often given and rightfully credits his wife Lillian with coming up with Mickey’s name.  It shows people in his life I hadn’t heard before like his Aunt Maggie who inspired and encouraged Walt to pursue his artistic talents.

Breaking the fourth wall – such a great touch

And for the Disney fan, there are many nods to the people in Walt’s life and to those he inspired including Rolly Crump, Mary Blair, and Marty Sklar.  It includes a timeline of his life and events inspired by his life like the opening of EPCOT and has pictures of him including a wedding picture with Lillian.  I love that it’s told in the first person.  And I have to admit when “Walt” tells us to imagine our happy place like Marceline was for him, I couldn’t help but picture Disneyland – always my happy place.  Thanks Walt for creating for me what was once created for you…

Where is your happy place?

If you have kids or you are a Disney fan or you just love books that inspire children to be the best they can be, you need this book.  Not only do you need this book, but every book in this amazing series. I Am Walt Disney …and you can be, too.

Title: I Am Walt Disney
Author: Brad Meltzer, illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos
Cost: $15.99
Age: 7-10 (but great for any Walt Disney fan)
Publisher: Penguin Random House / Penguin Young Readers
Genre: Children’s Books; Young Readers

Thanks to Penguin Random House for giving me a copy for review.

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