George: I’ve read (and reviewed) a few fiction-based titles that take place in a Disney theme park. By and large, most of them seem to fall short of expectations–whether it’s the plot or the characters, it always seems like the author gets hung up on the place. The other issue seems to be the inaccuracies that plague most Disney fiction. When you love a place as much as we love the Disney parks, it can be very frustrating and distracting to read about the main characters walking from Frontierland to the Japan Pavilion in less than five minutes.
Jeff: The problem is usually the author gets distracted with the location itself, and instead of using it just as a backdrop for their story, they allow it to become its own character. Of course, that often makes the location overshadow the main plot itself. Thankfully, Kate Abbott’s Disneylanders is one of the few titles to break that curse. Not only is it Disney accurate, but’s an amazingly written story as well!
George: Disneylanders is a novel aimed specifically for the tween/teen age group. But don’t let that deter you in any way. We’re introduced to Casey who’s travelling to her favorite place in the world, Disneyland, the year before she enters high school. She’s lost her best friend who usually goes with her family to Disneyland and she finds herself wondering how much her life is going to change. As the story unfolds, we see Casey, so unsure of everything in life, feel completely at home at Disneyland. As expected, everything changes.
George: It’s a great sign in a book when Jeff and I talk about it while we’re reading it. Usually, we don’t discuss a book until we’ve finished it and are reviewing it. This time, we were so fully engaged with the book that there were constant queries of “have you made it to this point” and “did you read this, yet”. The characters were extremely well fleshed out and the scenes felt real as you read them. One of the nice things about Kate’s style with Disneylanders is that the scenes, like Disneyland, enfold you. You can see (and smell) Disneyland in this book. There were just a few minor issues in the book, but they were completely overcome by how well it’s written and how faithful to Disneyland that Kate is.
George: I agree with Jeff. I really felt like there might have been some deeper Disney connections with one of the main characters that we never got to explore. That being said, this is a really fun read that is going to attract more than just the target audience of tween and middle-aged readers. Adults are going to be engaged by the title and might learn a thing or two. Speaking as a parent of a fourteen year-old, it was a good reminder of how challenging those years can be.
Meet the Author!
We asked Kate a few very important questions so that we could all get to know her a little better!
Favorite attraction: I have always loved the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland. When I was little, I liked it, but I used to be afraid of the drummers. I would sit with my blankie over my head. In high school I made sculptures of the moving-eye tikis inside. And when I wrote DISNEYLANDERS, I had to set a key scene in the Tiki Room. It’s such a perfect escape from the rest of the park (which is already a sort of escape from reality), and I wanted to see what would happen if your problems found you even inside the refuge of the Tiki Room.
Favorite land: New Orleans Square is just so lovely. I like to walk around with a mint julep and admire all the beautiful architecture, and most of all, the plants! I’m a little obsessed with the landscaping of Disneyland, but especially NOS. When I find a plant in a nursery that is a NOS plant, I must buy it for my tiny backyard. My husband and I put in a patio to make our own “courtyard,” and I have the yard absolutely packed with plants that remind me of NOS: certain ferns, vines, and any plants that are a creepy color, like deep purple or black. In fact, the dark, Haunted Mansion-esque plants have started to infiltrate the front yard, too. I’m fairly certain my neighbors think I’m insane.
Favorite restaurant: I like to get a three-cheese Monte Cristo from Cafe Orleans. The best is when you’re sitting outside and get to people-watch or listen to a band while you’re eating. Of course, I also always stuff myself with the Monte Cristo (and pomme frites) and usually leave vowing to never eat so much again, but then I can’t wait to do it again next time!
Favorite snack food: There’s just nothing like Disneyland popcorn. It is popped with magic. On our last day, before heading for home, we get a bag to eat in the car. My son wants a balloon to take home, and my husband and I want popcorn. In DISNEYLANDERS, I made a scene where my main characters, Bert and Casey, are sort of holding each other’s hands while they’re sharing a bag of popcorn. I thought it was such a sweet, innocent way to flirt.
Favorite animated film: I’ve got to go with SNOW WHITE, although the film I’ve seen the most is probably my son’s favorite, CARS. I have to give CARS a lot of credit—even after watching it dozens of times with my kid, I still find something new to appreciate each time, whether it’s a joke or a bit of scenery.
Favorite Communicore Weekly co-host: Much like deciding between a mint julep and a Dole Whip, I could never make this choice.
Favorite non-Disney book: I have a special place in my heart for middle-grade novels, which is maybe why DISNEYLANDERS came out that way. Some of my favorites are THE MAN IN THE CEILING by Jules Feiffer and A LONG WAY FROM CHICAGO by Richard Peck. They’ve all got such charming, unique characters and voices and I could appreciate them as a child and as an adult, which I think is the mark of a great kids’ book. In terms of books for grown-ups, I’m pretty obsessed with Joan Didion. I’m working on a very different kind of book right now, a memoir about postpartum depression, and I’m really inspired by her brave writing.
Best way for people to stalk you: Twitter is an excellent way to stalk me: @kate_abbott_ (sorry for the underscores. All the other Kate Abbotts of the world have taken up the normal online names already). I really like Twitter. It’s a free-for-all where you can make friends with strangers, and you might have more in common with them than people you know in real life! I’ve met so many great people through Twitter, and the Disney community is especially strong.
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By Jeff Heimbuch and George Taylor
The Disney Review is written and edited by Jeff Heimbuch and George Taylor
Other places you can find George and Jeff:
- The 626 (Jeff)
- ImagiNERDing (George)
- From the Mouth of the Mouse (Jeff)
- Communicore Weekly The Greatest Online Show ™ (Jeff and George)
You can also see us EVERY week on Communicore Weekly on the MiceChat Youtube Channel.