Walt Disney World Adventure:  A Field Guide and Activity Book for Explorers, by Tracie A. Cook, Vacation Field Guides, 2010, 173 pp.

In an earlier review, I wrote that it had “been a very long time since I toured Walt Disney World with preschoolers.” The same can be said about 8 to 12-year-olds, the target audience of Tracie A. Cook’s Walt Disney World Adventure:  A Field Guide and Activity Book for Explorers. And, as I whined in that previous review, Cook’s Walt Disney World Adventure would have been pretty useful had it been published when I was traveling with children that age.

Walt Disney World Adventure is not so much a vacation planning tool as a guide book or explorer’s notebook. Cook takes on the daunting task of helping make a preteen’s visit to WDW not just fun but educational. Using a clever device that transforms the child from a run-of-the-mill young tourist into a Magellan-like explorer, Cook guides the reader around “The World” using puzzles, quizzes, maps, and coded and hidden messages. The subtitle of the book, “A Field Guide and Activity Book for Explorers,” aptly captures its spirit of discovery and the cover art—an explorer, perhaps on a safari, peering through binoculars searching for something worthy of discovering—is appropriate.

The Field Guide directs the reader to attractions at all four parks and provides a brief description of each attraction. Then, the real work of the book begins. Each stop on the guide contains one or more of the puzzles, quizzes, maps, and coded and hidden messages mentioned above which help the reader discover some hidden fact about the attraction, its setting, or its historical context.

At Spaceship Earth, for example, the explorer must write his name using hieroglyphics. At the Universe of Energy, the explorer is directed to answer questions about the characteristics and uses of various types of energy. At the Jungle Cruise, you must locate 4 lost skippers using a logic-based clue matrix, and, at Captain EO, you learn about the anatomy of the eye and then contemplate what life on earth will be like in 50 years. Each “challenge,” as Cook calls the tasks, is unique and amplifies either the attraction or something related to the attraction.

I tried to approach Walt Disney World Adventure, not as a jaded and cynical adult, but as a kid who was about to experience WDW for the very first time. I found the descriptions of each attraction simple, yet inviting, and the challenges appropriately thought-provoking. After scanning the book, my 15-year-old daughter agreed. Then, we happily completed most of the challenges together.

Although much of WDW is inherently educational, it is not something we want to spend time thinking about. The very reason WDW works as an instructional tool is that its educational elements are either hidden by, or cleverly and subtly interwoven with, brilliant entertainment elements. It is that intricate marriage between education and entertainment that makes WDW work on so many levels and for people of all ages, educational backgrounds, and life experiences.

Walt Disney World Adventure succeeds because of that very same formula. Cook’s purpose, to be sure, is to educate—“to foster a love of learning,” in her own words. In doing so, she succeeds in introducing the intricate, often hidden world of Disney secrets to the preteen. She accomplishes this, not with the heavy hand of an educator, but with the dexterity of someone who simply loves Walt Disney World and wants to share that love with a new generation of Disney fans.

Contributed by: John Marchese (NDD#172) John is the DDL Media Relations Blogger.

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