The Return: Disney Lands, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
The Return: Disney Lands, Book 1 Book Poster Image
New Kingdom Keepers series best for fans of previous one.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

When the teens travel back to the 1950s, a little history of the development of TV and the early days of the Disney parks.

Positive Messages

Trust in your friends, even as you grow up and grow a bit apart. Loyalty and teamwork also are important.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Finn doesn't despair when his friends don't believe in him; he perseveres until they do. All the teens use their gifts to help one another. Jess and Amanda deal with jealousy and keep secrets from each other. Jess eventually breaks a promise of secrecy to help her friends.

Violence

The teens feel pain even in hologram form when some disguised baddies come after them. They're nearly hit with axes and swords and beaten up. In human form, one boy gets Tased by a robot, and a man is poisoned. A mention of suicide and a family killed in an elevator after a lightning strike.

Sex

Some kissing.

Language
Consumerism

The book is immersed in Disney everything. The teens work for Disney and go to school at a special Disney school and travel back in time to an earlier version of the parks and spout much information about the history of Disney. Mentions of Disney movies and characters throughout. A few mentions of Converse shoes, Starbucks, Apple watch, Timex, and M&Ms.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Return is the start of a Kingdom Keepers spin-off series called Disney Lands. Kids will need to read the other Kingdom Keepers series to know the main characters, smart teens with different abilities and backgrounds, and know how and why they turn into holograms and run from the bad guys: Disney characters come to life in the Disney parks. (There's no missing the constant branding here, but any kid who's been to Disneyland or Walt Disney World is already immersed.) A few scary things happen while the teens aren't holograms: They watch a man get poisoned, and someone gets Tased. Mostly -- somehow -- they get mildly injured in hologram form. Fights use an ax, swordplay, and fists. Time travel plays a part here, and kids will have fun comparing clothes, expressions, and technology of the 1950s with today.

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What's the story?

THE RETURN: DISNEY LANDS, BOOK 1 begins with the Kingdom Keepers, fresh from saving the parks from the Overtakers, getting ready to move on. College and acting careers await. But during a congratulatory press event a man is poisoned and a clue dropped. They haven't done everything yet to save the parks. Finn is the most adamant about finding out what needs to be done. He links the clue to Walt's missing pen, and he'll need to go into hologram form to find it. Philby, fellow Kingdom Keeper, is willing to help but still doesn't understand why it's so important -- until clues lead to a special horse on a carousel and Finn comes back, his memory completely wiped. How did it happen? Will the other Kingdom Keepers ever believe him now?

Is it any good?

Readers who haven't caught up on the Kingdom Keepers series will be a bit confused. A crash course in holograms and the badness of the Overtakers would have been welcome. But still, it's a strange leap to someone getting poisoned in the first few pages and Walt's pen needing to be put in a special place. Then the reader is thrown into Finn as a hologram and time travel and a chance that the Overtakers are back -- but why? And how? -- and a whole side story of Amanda and Jess at a special academy stealing files with the narrator barely wondering why they're doing it. Even in a mystery, the clues have to be carefully laid out and the stakes for not solving them explained. And borrowing a plot point -- Walt's pen -- not only from a previous book but from a previous series hardly seems like the start to a fresh new series at all.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the branding here. Are you already a Disney fanatic? If not, does this book make you want to know more about the "Wonderful World of Disney"?

  • What did you learn about technology in the 1950s? How did the color TV come about back then? How did time travel alter this history in The Return?

  • If you could travel back in time, which time period would you want to visit? Why?

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