Let's Empower Our Girls to Follow Their Dreams with Disney Publishing!

As you know, I have a longstanding relationship with Disney Publishing that goes back almost a decade when I founded Picturing Disney photoblog when a social media manager took a chance on a new blog because "she really liked my passion for Disney and reading". I am lucky enough to still receive occasional books for review. The last two books I received, which are coming to book stores August 13th were storybooks written to 10 year old Mel. The stories of amazing girl animators took my breath away and I am so excited to share them with you.

A month ago, I received "Pencils, Pens, and Brushes: A Great Girls Guide to Disney Animation". This book is fantastic. My youngest daughter still likes to wind down at night with a good book. And although I am not longer needed to snuggle up with her and read her chapters from Narnia or Harry Potter, when I peak in her room to come tuck her in I still see the little girl from 5 years ago pointing to words she's figured out behind her book and glasses. She spent most of last year reading from Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls each night and I have been trying to find her something similar that had interesting and thoughtful (nonfiction) stories that would inspire her girl power. Disney just created this book for me!

Pencils, Pens and Brushes is based on the Disney Editions book "Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney's Animation" and each story is presented in a picture book. Mindy Johnson, who wrote the original also wrote this book and it showcases the unique personalities and accomplishments of amazing women who worked for Disney Animation over the years while somehow also having room for inspiring messages about never giving up and believing in yourself. If you have a young or tween or teen girl in your life, don't just "check this book out" do not hesitate-- preorder it now!

And as a supplement to the same genius empowerment from this book Disney is releasing a one of a kind unmatched look at the quintessential Disney artist in "Mary Blair's Unique Flair: The Girl Who Became One of the Disney Legends". In the similar storybook format, this book showcases my daughters absolute favorite Disney artist and we sat and read it together, and then as a family around our fire pit! The story showcases how Mary loved color so much she practically collected it and how her "flair" caught not only Walt Disney's attention, but the whole world! And it is illustrated by Brittney Lee, who has worked on films such as Frozen and Zootopia!

Info from Disney Publishing

Title: Pencils, Pens, and Brushes: A Great Girls Guide to Disney Animation
Author: Mindy Johnson
Illustrator: Lorelay Bove
Ages: 8-12
Pages: 80
List Price: $18.99

Title: Mary Blair's Unique Flair: The Girl Who Became One of the Disney Legends
Author: Amy Novesky
Illustrator: Brittney Lee
Ages: 6-10
Pages: 40
List Price: $17.99

Arizona Adventures: The Animators, Walnut Canyon, and Settling My Soul

I know I have been slow to get my creative juices flowing! The first half of 2019 I have been reading, reading, reading, and left very little room for writing! I hope you all have been enjoying my Disney Publishing reviews and I hope if you are also avid readers (which I figure you must be if you read my blog at this point) you have come follow me on GoodReads because I have been honestly just devouring books this year. I read an eclectic combination of genres so I will throw out a few recommendations as a means to organize this post which really is my wholehearted recommendation for visiting Arizona and in particular setting aside some time for Walnut Canyon if you are ever near Flagstaff!

I have read nearly two dozen books this year including finally tackling Victor Hugo's Les Miserables and David McCullough's 1776. I finally got around to some other classics I have always wanted to read as well, particularly As I Lay Dying. And honorable mention to the YA books I have read including Towers Falling, Solo, Everything All at Once, and Words on Bathroom Walls. The top 3 books I have read are (in no particular order) The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker, The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris, and Bridge of Clay by Marcus Zusak.

I struggled with Bridge of Clay, but I generally like to finish books so after the new year I put it down, read a couple shorter and more light books and then tried again. It was masterful and Marcus Zusak is still a personal favorite. I was actually so inspired I got my son to read The Book Thief for his summer reading project. I did not rate Clay on GoodReads because I feel like its beauty had to simmer with me for a while to really appreciate it.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz was recommended to me by a colleague and it was narrated by Richard Armitage on audible so honestly, how could I not? I loved it so much I read the print version after I finished listening and then promptly told me husband every plot point in the entire story. This book is so amazing, you do not need be a history lover to get something out of it. And there is a book detailing the life of another person from the novel, Silka, coming out this fall.

I brought The Animators with me on a 3 day solo trip to Arizona. It was one of three books I packed along with The Giver and Younger (the book the series is based off). I finished the YA classic before I even got off the plane and found myself sitting on the balcony of my room watching the sunset with a glass of sparkling water and The Animators. That evening I read until I feel asleep with book in hand. I woke up the next morning with the plan to go and road trip from my hotel in Scottsdale straight through Navajo territory up to Antelope Canyon. I knew it was a long ride and I knew it was a bit of a tourist trap but I have already done the Grand Canyon and I wanted to have one of those moments where I am so in awe of the natural world that it settles my soul.

I embarked on my journey at sunrise and watched the beauty of the world unfold around me as I saw the pinks and oranges and even some purples paint the sky beyond a silhouette of cactus and cliffs. I was about two hours in (halfway) when my tire pressure gauge popped on. I had to stop for gas anyway so after the fill up I checked the pressure which was only a little low. I figured it was from the temperature change, adjusted the air so the light went off and continued on down the road. About an hour from my destination the tire light blinked right back on and before I had a chance to even stop I heard the sound of a flat tire. I pulled over, immediately pep talking myself about how I could totally just put on the spare and get on with my life.

I opened the trunk to find that I could not, with all of my muscular strength, get the jack out. I looked around: I was in the middle of absolutely no where. I had no cell service and could see a mile in both directions of the perfectly straight and empty road with desert and bluffs around me. I nearly cried when I decided to say out loud "You. Got. This." I most certainly did not got this. After standing in the trunk to use my entire body weight to try and pry the jack loose I was about to give up and ride the car on the rim (and begin calculating what I would have to pay the rental company for damages).

It jus so happened a truck drove by and it actually slowed for me. I was able to hail down the man who after only a brief attempt to hit on me not only got the jack out but changed the tire. I was so grateful he decided to stay because even he had struggled to get the bolts off of the tires and I immediately imagined what I would have done if I was left to do it myself (it involved gross crying in fetal position in a desert). When I had the spare on I pulled up to the nearest garage where I was told that they would not replace the tire for me because it was Sunday, although they were already in the midst of replacing someone else's tire. As I sat in my car, on the phone with my husband who had found me a few options for the tire, I decided I did not want to continue north. The world had disappointed me that morning in all the ways I expected it to give me a deep sense of fulfillment.

We found a place right on historic Route 66 in Flagstaff and I started my under 60 mph drive back south. I grabbed a smart water I had packed, put some sunscreen on, and decided I could wilt or bloom. I grabbed the bandana tied to my bag and tied it up in a cute headband, snapped a few selfies of the rock formation behind me and sent them to my man so he would not worry. I quickly downloaded The Animators onto my audible account and found my place. And every damn time I saw something beautiful I pulled over onto the shoulder, double checked my tire and enjoyed the view.

When I arrived in Flagstaff I passed some signs for a place called Walnut Canyon and while I waited (only 20 minutes) for the tire I found you could walk through ancient pueblos if you hiked the canyon and was immediately enamored with the idea. As I paid and left I let my husband know my updated itinerary and as he tried to cheer me up about my fumble of a morning, I reassured him that I knew now that this was the adventure I was meant to have. I challenged my heart and my body at Walnut Canyon. The hike was rough and the heat was overpowering. I stopped and set up my camera to take a couple pictures and an awesome (much older and much more fit) female power couple who I kept crossing paths with took some pictures for me and I for them. It was amazing.

As I rode home, hearing the end of The Animators and crying (sorry if that is a spoiler) I was also crying for so much more than that. I was crying for the day trip I lost and the day trip I found. I was crying for the poverty I drove through on the reservation land. I was crying for the girl power I thought I had and how I felt humiliated by the world not being able to change my own tire. I was crying for the peace I had been seeking because it was within me the entire time. Two days later, when I got off the plane and walked out of the airport into the smell of hot candy that wafts through the air in NYC, and my husband embraced me I realized that my soul may long for nature but my heart only longs for him.

The Odd Sisters are the siblings you always wanted?

I received an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The Odd Sisters by Serena Valentino is scheduled for publication on July 2nd and is available for preorder online!

This was an unexpected start for me to the wondrous world of the Villains series and I was able to share reading with my villain-obsessed tween! We had the perfect mix of snowed in and lazy weekend hours after receiving this book and finished it in just a few days! We just loved the way this story came together and, all spoilers aside, can't wait as this is surely going to become its own series!

While waiting for full publication enjoy the concept art from Illustrator Pablo Santander, as shared on Ms. Valentino's blog.

We also couldn't wait to look at the bigger picture behind the Odd Sisters roll in the previous Villains series books. Once we finished, I immediately ordered the first book in the series and think this is going to be a family favorite! I can't wait to see what Lucinda, Ruby, Martha (and Circe) had in store for my favorite new and classic Disney villains!

The Villains Series
Fairest of the Them All 🍎
The Beast Within 🥀
Poor Unfortunate Souls 🧜🏻‍♀️
Mistress of Evil 🧚🏼‍♀️
Mother Knows Best 💇🏻‍♀️

From Disney Publishing:
Throughout the course of Serena Valentino's Villains seres, a trio of witches called the odd sisters has changed the fate of the greatest villains ever known: the wicked queen, Beauty's prince, the sea witch, the Dark Fairy, and the old witch. They've turned innocents into monsters and left chaos in their wake.
Now those they have wronged plan their revenge. But when the truth about the twisted, diabolical odd sister is revealed, nothing in the many kingdoms will ever be the same.
This darkly fascinating series reimagines Disney's villains as you've never seen them before.

Disney Twisted Tales: A New Take on Classic Stories!

I received the Disney Twisted Tales box set as a gift earlier this year and loved the "what if?" stories from Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, and Sleeping Beauty! I was super excited when I received a preview copy of the newest addition to this series: Mirror, Mirror. When I heard the next book would be Snow White themed I had pondered what the twist would be and I love the question taunted right on the cover: What if the prince had been poisoned?

I dove right into this book, although this is the 7th book in the series, 5 of these books (including the only 3 others I have read) were all written by Liz Braswell. I was uncertain if I would enjoy this book as much as I had the others and I can say with all honesty this was just as good as the Twisted Tales books I have previously read and has me excited to pick up the few I have not gotten to yet!

Mirror Mirror is a unique take on the the Twisted Tales series and an exciting read for Snow White fans, Disney fans, and anyone looking for a book to make you think, wonder, and believe in fairy tales. You can pick up your copy on April 2nd when it will be available for purchase online and in stores! And if I haven't convinced you, head on over to the FREE EXCERPT that Disney Publishing is providing and give it a go! Good luck, fair men and maidens!