Great Disneyland Reads for Little (and Big) Readers

by Jenna Kahl, contributing writer

With the holiday season here and in full swing, I know many people are looking for gifts for big and little Disneyland fans alike. If you are anything like me, especially when shopping for a little one, buying a book usually feels better than buying a toy. Our family first stumbled across these kid-friendly Disneyland specific books purely by accident, with the help of my curious 3 year old in our local bookstore. So in the words of Reading Rainbow "take a look, it's in a book."

Little Man of Disneyland

Let's start in the very beginning, as it's a very good place to start. In 1955 the Little Man of Disneyland, written by RH Disney and illustrated by Walt Disney Studios, hit shelves as a Little Golden Book. You can find this treasure in its original printing online, and you can actually find reprints pretty easily at large bookstore chains. This book introduces the reader to Patrick Begorra, a leprechaun, who lives in a tiny house at the base of a large orange tree. One day Patrick meets Donald Duck, Mickey Mouse, and Goofy as they work on moving trees and making room for the building of what would come to be known as Disneyland. You can only imagine the adventures that this unusual group partakes on together for the rest of the story. The even better part is you can experience the book in reality by seeking out the actual home of Patrick Begorra in Adventureland at the Disneyland Resort (no hints here!).

The next three books are my girls' favorites, mainly because they are centered on three of their favorite attractions, but I have convinced myself that it's because they love reading so much!

"It's a Small World"

Written by the Sherman Brothers and beautifully illustrated by Joey Chou, "it's a small world," was published in 2011 and kicked off my family's love of these bright, colorful, fun, and familiar stories. The premise is simple enough as the book takes the lyrics and scenes from the iconic Disneyland attraction and takes you, page by page, on a reimagined visual journey to visit the children from around the world. While I love reading aloud and hearing my girls make up alternative words and stories for each page, this book also comes with a CD that contains the iconic "it's a small world" song that allows them to sing, play, and read along all on their own.

Great reads for little readers. Photo by Jenna Kahl.

Haunted Mansion

Next up and one of my personal favorites is the 2016 Haunted Mansion by Buddy Baker and Xavier Atencio, with illustrations by James Gillerad. This book, like the one above, is a straightforward journey through the scenes depicted in the attraction, guided by the lyrics and enhanced by the included CD with the full length "Grim Grinning Ghosts" song. As is fitting I purchased this book this past Halloween and love how dark-yet-not-scary it is just like the attraction, and, at the same time, it delighted my 3 year old so much she took it to preschool for show and tell.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Last, and I certainly hope not the end of this series, Pirates of the Caribbean written by George Bruns and Xaiver Atencio with illustrations by Mike Wall was published this year. I think the thing that stands out the most is the playful nature of the pirate characters you meet along the way. It's everything I could have hoped for, and places the book much more in the world that my children are drawn to, a little less dark, a little sillier, but quintessentially still the ride we know and love. Like the other two, the included CD, featuring "Yo Ho (A Pirates Life for me)" is a great addition and helps the book come to life.

While these last three books might sound like cookie cutter approaches to foundational attractions, I am amazed each time I open one up that the unique illustrations make each feel as if it came from a different team of creators, but were still all part of the same story—very much like Disneyland itself.