If I think back to being small, I remember liking two things above all else: Disney and reading. I liked other stuff too, of course: beanbags, Angel Delight and Jim Davidson’s Generation Game, to name a few. But Disney and reading always came out top.
This is me, havin’ a good old read in bed as a four year-old. Pls note the book bag (which I used to carry around with my fiction of the day inside… as ya do), the Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast hardbacks, Simba in the background, AND the cloud-print duvet cover. I mean, Toy Story wasn’t even OUT yet and here I am, repping Andy’s room like a pro.
If you ask me, this is a face that says: “Mom, I love you, but I’m trying to read here so I’ll talk to you later. Today is a Disney day.”
And to be honest, every day since then has been a Disney day. I don’t really know how it all started. I remember hoping that I would grow up to be Belle. I remember letters to Father Christmas that just said “A Simba! Please! xxxxx.” I remember that my grandma made me a red wool wig and a little green ‘tail’ and how I shuffled around the house like a penguin, proclaiming that I wanted to be where the PEOPLE were.
Sometimes I’ll ask my mom where it all came from, and she will say “I don’t know – we weren’t really a Disney family – at least no more than anyone else was.” But I know that this is a lie, for the following reasons:
- One evening last summer I put The Bear Necessities on and she knew every single word. She was even prepared for that bit at the end where Mowgli says “Yeah, man!” AND she did the voice and everything.
- She once told me that EPCOT was “breathtaking.”
- In every single photo featuring me and my brother between the ages of two and nine, there are at least three pieces of Disney clothing or merchandise to spot. Where’s Walt: ’90s edition
- She took me to Disneyland Paris a grand total of three times as a child. By the time I turned 11, she knew better than to ask “Where do you think we should go on holiday?” because she knew my answer would be “DISNEY AGAIN!” and not “Maybe something cultural in Venice.”
So, as you can see, I grew up surrounded by Mickey and friends, however much my mom likes to pretend otherwise. My weekends were spent watching The Little Mermaid TV series on VHS, and my school lunchbreaks involved various forms of Disney roleplay – most often, I pretended the nearest pigeon was my pet tiger, Rajah, and sighed “If I do marry, I want it to be for love” to anyone who would listen. Sometimes I would pick up a small stick (a makeshift dagger, duh) and yell “Say your prayers, Hook!” which was, in retrospect, probably not the best way to make friends. But I mean, if your potential pals don’t know a Peter Pan quote when they hear one, do you even want to eat lunch with them? I’ll let you mull it over but the answer is NO.
We’re now 20 years on, yet stuff hasn’t really changed. Sure, I don’t still wander around quoting Jasmine while eating my sandwiches, but I TOTALLY WOULD if my colleagues wanted to join in. I’m sure at least one of them has a suitable rug for us to re-enact A Whole New World with, right? I’m a Disney girl – through and through.
I’m also a reader through and through. My mom did not just instill a love of Mickey Mouse and Pocahontas leggings in me – she taught me that reading for fun is one of THE MOST ENJOYABLE things a person can ever experience. One of the first books I remember her reading out loud was the Winnie the Pooh Treasury, which I still own to this day and have placed in my Mental List Of Books I Will Pass On To My Children And Be Very Upset If They Don’t Like. The Winnie the Pooh Treasury was really more of an A. A. Milne treasury, because it had all of my favourite Pooh Bear stories in it but ALSO lots of separate poems, which won my heart. Please read Forgiven and then tell me what you think of it. Oh, and Buckingham Palace. BASICALLY JUST ALL OF THEM.
I guess that’s the thing, though – you might not feel the same way about those poems as I do, because when I read them I still hear my mom’s voice in my head. She used to do these incredible voices – a different one for each character – and she’d read the stanzas perfectly. Sometimes they had a little tune behind them. Some of them were loud and boisterous. Others were calming. Others were silly, or sad. I loved that.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea. Sophie’s Snail. Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. The Little White Horse. In the evenings and on weekends I devoured books on my own, but before bed was always our reading time.
That’s why I was so happy when the lovely team at Parragon got in touch with me and asked if I’d be interested in helping them to celebrate #DisneyBookWeek. For those who aren’t in the know, Parragon is a Disney, Marvel and own-brand publisher of children’s books, toys and gifts – its Disney Movie Collection series is at the heart of Disney Book Week, which is all about creating a love of books in children and encouraging families to read together.
Parragon sent me over THE cutest parcel, stuffed with Disney goodies – and most exciting of all were the two books they’d chosen for me from the Disney Movie Collection: Finding Dory and The Jungle Book (where’s my mom with a “YEAAAH MAN!” when you need her?). I could say that I didn’t squeal when I opened them but that would be a big fib, because I did squeal, and then I sat down contentedly to read. What a Friday night treat.
One of my favourite things about the Disney Movie Collection is that each cover has its own adorable colour and design – and there’s something quite nostalgic about them, right? These remind me of the books I read when I was younger, but also of the classic Disney movie and Park posters, and I absolutely love them.
But actually reading the books was a delight, as well. What I liked most was that these could genuinely be read and enjoyed by people of any age – the wording is simple enough to be understood by young children but complex enough to be suitable for older readers, too. I won’t lie to you, I have already started a new book collection in my head (hello, Sleeping Beauty!) and I know that my Disney-loving pals will be joining me – these are SO perfect for brightening up bookshelves and rainy days.
For younger children or more reluctant readers, I think it’s ideal that their favourite Disney tales have been re-created in storybook form – a much-loved story will unfold again as the pages turn, but in a brand new way, bridging the gap between the familiar and the unknown. Isn’t that cool? I’m geeking out about it, because if #DisneyBookWeek is able to encourage even a few children to give reading a go, or a few families to sit down and explore a story together, I think that’ll be truly magical.
A good book allows you to travel to another world – so does Disney. What could be better than mixing the two together? As Walt himself said, “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island.”