Review: “3500”, a sweet Disney love story

"3500: An Autistic Boy's Ten-Year Romance With Snow White"

“3500: An Autistic Boy’s Ten-Year Romance With Snow White” image (c) Ron Miles and Michael Montoure, used without permission here but I hope since this is a review it will be OK.

At the end of last year I had amassed some $50 in Barnes and Noble gift cards, and I figured I should do something I don’t often do, to wit: buy some books.  Why don’t I normally do this?  Two reasons, and neither one is because I don’t like reading.  The first is because I have so many books, I feel guilty buying more; and the second is, I have no idea where to start. I actually tend to read the books I own over and over. No joke.

 

Anyway, in this case I decided I’d look up some Disney books. I got some recommendations from friends of various kinds of Disney-related reading, and made my order on the website. They came one at a time.  One of the first to arrive was “3500: An Autistic Boy’s Ten-Year Romance with Snow White”, by Ron Miles.

 

I had read about this book when it came out, a few months earlier (now a year or so ago – it was published in 2013), and was very intrigued by it. A simple version of the story is that Ron’s son, Benjamin, fell in love with Walt Disney World, fell DEEPLY in love with Snow White’s Scary Adventures, and rode it over and over…3,500 times, in fact.  This is a very, very simple and actually almost misleading version of the story, as there is so much more to it.  You get an in depth picture of Benjamin, of the challenges of raising a boy with autism but also the huge rewards, and the whole story is glowing with the love that Ron feels for his son, the pride he takes in the accomplishments that Benjamin makes, and the joy he receives from not only Benjamin’s love of Snow White, but also the way the folks at Disney World treat Benjamin.

 

The story is a very easy read, personal but  not the kind of personal telling that shuts readers out (you know… the ones that are SO personal they feel like a journal, written for folks who already know the writer, and those stories leave you feeling like you’ve missed something somewhere).  This also is not an easy, level story being told.  Benjamin and his parents go through a lot on this ten-year journey; Ron, and Benjamin’s mother as well, make lots of changes to their lives, not the least of which is the decision to move to Orlando just to be close to Disney World so that they can pursue it as a therapeutic option for Benjamin’s development.  There are health struggles, personal struggles, and as we know, Snow White’s Scary Adventures meets an untimely end.  Benjamin, however, keeps going and the whole book leaves the reader with a sense of the growth that Benjamin has undergone and a strong affection for him.

 

I really highly recommend this book, as a memoir, as a Disney World love story, and as a story of meeting the challenges life has handed you with love and determination, and how that can pay off.  I hope Benjamin’s continuing story stays on the same path.  (And I have to wonder if he’s been on the Mine Train yet, and what he thinks!)

 

You can buy “3500” here on Amazon; this is a link to the Kindle edition, but I bought it in print, and like having it available in a hard copy. I am old-fashioned that way. 🙂 The Kindle price is $2.99, paperback price is $11.66.  You can also buy it from Barnes And Noble here; prices are about the same, but the eBook is Nook format instead of Kindle.

Review: The Imagineering Field Guides to Walt Disney World

Coincidentally, a shot of the two books I own! This came from www.imaginerding.com and not me.

Coincidentally, a shot of the two books I own! This came from http://www.imaginerding.com and not me.

I don’t own a whole lot of Disney books, believe it or not. I only own one copy of “The Unofficial Guide to WDW” for instance (the 2013 edition); prior to that I’d just take them out from the library periodically. For fun, actually. 😀

Anyway, in spite of my tendency to not buy myself Disney books, my husband knows to look for WDW themed items for gifts for me, and sometimes he has to get creative b/c I don’t look for them myself and have no idea what to ask for.  A few years ago he picked out two books I ended up loving: The Imagineering Field Guide to Epcot and to Magic Kingdom.

If you take a look inside the two books on the Amazon links above you can get a vague idea of what they’re about, but it’s not really going to show you just why they’re so interesting.  What the books do is they talk about the design of the parks from the Imagineers’ perspective – yes, that’s obvious – and then give you a lot of little insights into the designs.

Like the fact that everything in Future World East is angular and hard-sculpted, and everything in Future World West is free-flowing and rounded.  Or that there is a “geographical and chronological transition” between The Haunted Mansion to Big Thunder Mountain, as the design of the areas flow from the Hudson River Valley in the early 1700s (Haunted Mansion) to a journey west across the United States, stretching up to the late 19th century.

The books are laid out section-by-section of each park with stories, concepts, details, histories… just everything.  There’s a lot that hardcore Disney fans will probably know but there is so much that there may be things even they *don’t* know.  I’m not going to suggest facts that people might not know yet because I think it would vary person-by-person and I don’t want to sound stupid. “Bet you didn’t know that John Hench suggested that Spaceship Earth be made in two pieces with the bottom part hanging from the top!”  “Uh, DUH.”

The interior of the Epcot book, again not my picture; displayed in a post here: http://waltswriters.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/the-imagineering-field-guide-series-epcot/

The interior of the Epcot book, again not my picture; displayed in a review post (with more detail than mine) here: http://waltswriters.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/the-imagineering-field-guide-series-epcot/

Another feature of the books that I really like is at the beginning, the same in all titles.  The first few pages of each book comprise a section called “Imagineering 101” and it just covers the history of Imagineering, Imagineering Lingo (very informative), and my favourite, WDI Disciplines.  If you are interested in working as an Imagineer, this basically gives you a list of your job options.  I’m not looking for a career as an Imagineer and yet I STILL love this part. It just gives such an amazing description of all the things that the Imagineers do.  All this stuff you’d never realize.  Like “Character Paint”.  Guess what that is?  “Character Paint creates the reproductions of various materials, finishes, and states of aging whenever we need to make something new look old.”

Also included are plenty of pictures, concept art, designs, blueprints, and quotes and quick facts.  The whole thing is illustrated in a variety of ways, not only by visual images but with brief presentations.  You know, I’m suddenly remembering how long it’s been since I read these…

So honestly – these are a great, great buy. I have no attention span whatsoever so the fact that these can be read bit by bit is a huge plus. Actually I read some of them aloud in the car once on the way to the beach! (I promise I was not driving at the time.)  Of course, with recent park updates, they are not the most up-to-date information available but just for historical info and trivia, these books are top-notch.

Animal Kingdom and MGM/Hollywood Studios are also available. I haven’t read them but I can only imagine they’d be just as good. The cover price on my copies is $9.95 and on Amazon it looks like they’re around a dollar less than that!

Review: Guide to the Magic For Kids

So before I start, I want to make it clear that I chose to write this review, I have no affiliations at all with Tim Foster and I didn’t get any review copies or anything.

However, I am *willing* to do Disney-related product reviews if approached, you know, just saying. 😉

So! There’s a pretty decent chance you’ve heard of Tim Foster’s Guide to the Magic website and books. If you haven’t, they are travel guides to WDW that are largely photo-based and very nicely graphically designed. I’ve only seen the “Guide to the Magic For Kids”, which I ordered two years ago as a Christmas present for my daughter just before we went on our first trip together. I got the previous revision – it’s been recently update with information on New Fantasyland and the new Test Track, and I can’t speak to the quality of that information. Given what I know about Tim Foster from his appearances on WDW Radio, I’d have to assume it’s very well-researched.

In any case, I ordered the book a short while before the latest release was ready, so I had to wait a while to get it. Not a problem because it was shipping just in time for Christmas. The only downside? We moved while I was waiting, and I nearly forgot to email Tim with my updated address! I got him JUST before the book shipped so all was well.

Guide to the Magic for Kids cover (c) by Tim Foster, not by me

Guide to the Magic for Kids cover (c) by Tim Foster, not by me

The book, when it arrived, was so attractive and appealing that I wanted to read it all by myself. I should give a disclaimer that I am consistently fascinated by Disney guidebooks and I am prone to taking them out from the library and reading them like novels. You know, as you do. Anyway, the photos… oh, the photos. They’re great.

GttMfK is also interactive, which I love. It includes not just photos, descriptions and trivia of each attraction, but also stickers for each attraction to put on the corresponding pages; activities like checking off which monorails you’ve ridden on or which characters you’ve seen; a journal to list what you did each day, where you ate, what the weather was like, what park you visted; and there are scavenger hunts and hidden Mickey information, too.

Well obviously I was delighted with it, but what did my daughter think? Nearly five at the time, she loved it. She was just learning to read and this was a little over her head by herself, but there are so many photos that she didn’t need to read. We went through it to drive up our excitement pre-trip, brought it on the trip, went through it at night to recap our days and plan our next day, passed time with it on the monorails, and once we got home we finished filling it in, ranking favourite rides, and then got to use it to relive the memories and look up the things we hadn’t had a chance to do but would try for next time.

In short, I really recommend this book for kids, I’d say probably up to age 10 for certain; since my daughter is currently about to be 7 and is the eldest in the family, I don’t know how much past 10 it would go up to, but hey, I’m in my mid-30s and I love it. So there ya go.

The latest edition of GttMfK is currently on sale from the full price of $29.95 and is marked down by 33%, to $19.95 plus shipping and handling. You can also get an Autograph and Sticker Book, which I haven’t tried and can’t review, for $11.95 plus s&h. I give this book two thumbs up and really recommend it, especially as a pre-travel gift for a child who has never been to WDW!