‘These superstars teach your child the way no other teachers can’, proclaims an advert for ‘Disney’s Wonderful World of Knowledge’ and it’s true, writes David Rounce. The museum was fortunate lately to receive a lively set of Disney factual books for children, part of a collection of ‘twenty-three riveting volumes’ first published in the early 1970s and still available in various forms today.
Perfect set dressing for a child’s bedroom in the museum’s projected 1980s town, our examples span two series: ‘Wonderful World of Knowledge’ (inc.‘ Transportation’, ‘Inventions’, ‘Science and Technology’, ‘Caves to Skyscrapers’, ‘Exploration and Discovery’ and ‘Treasures of the Earth’) and ‘Growing up Healthy’ (inc. ‘Avoiding Sickness and Accidents’, ‘How We Behave’, ‘Our Illnesses’ and ‘What Goes On Inside Us’).
Each book is told from the perspective of, or illustrated by, various well-known Disney characters. This lends a slightly surreal air to the topics which range from the fascinating; Mickey Mouse explores the space race, to the disturbing; we learn what happens when Goofy gets pneumonia, and the frankly irresponsible; Scrooge McDuck extols the virtues of asbestos.
The museum’s examples date from 1973 and inevitably time has rendered some of the content rather quaint; for instance Professor Ludwig von Drake gets very excited about ‘Spools of recording tape as small as the palm of your hand. One tape can contain as much information as will fill many pages of an average book. Imagine carrying the text of a thick book in a few ounces of tape!’ However, in an age where it’s all too easy to look to the internet for information, these books with their lively images and entertaining yet informative text have an undeniable charm and so, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to sit down and let Donald Duck tell me about the Renaissance…