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Friday, February 15, 2013

3500 Visits to Snow White: An Autistic Boy's Journey as a Book

Benjamin was an autistic child who rode Snow White's Scary Adventures literally thousands of times before it closed for good. It was the ride that brought him out of his autistic shell more than any other experience - and his father has written a book telling the story about Ben's relationship with this ride, since closed forever. And it's a good book, the kind all of us should be reading. It's the kind of book that transcends its supposed subject matter and becomes about everything else that matters in life and love; the kind of book that makes you better for having read it. Above all, it's a book that addresses emotions straight on. The father's emotions, Ben's emotions, and even our own emotions as readers. 

If you don't mist up reading the chapter about Ben coming alive when stepping into the Magic Kingdom for the first time, then you may not have emotions. On Main Street, his cautious steps turned energetic, his spirit loosened and his joy unbuckled for perhaps the first truly freeing moment of his young life, and the reader is swept along, helpless, and all but right there alongside Ben. It reminds us what we love about the Disney parks, and in that, Ben's story is the story of all of us when we interact with these magical creations seen in three dimensional reality only a few places on earth.

Not all elements of the story have to do with Ben; there are sections about his birth, job hunting, a move across country, and other necessary components of the narrative that is being told. They may contribute to the logic of what was done and why, but they don't resonate the same way as Disney-focused chapters do. The prose springs to life most vividly when Ben is center stage. His second trip to WDW is just as hypnotic as his first, and darned if his 1,000th ride (as well as the 2000th ride) didn't foreshadow much of what would happen on his very last ride (indeed, the very last ride for ANYBODY) on the attraction when it shut down for good. For someone who was present at the very last night like myself, this was compelling reading indeed.

Every reader will be gripped by the drama of that final night and Ben's final ride. Would he make it to 3,500 rides? What would the very last ride be like? The fact that it was a public drama, played out in Internet message boards and twitter, made it somehow all the more like it belonged to all of us in some tangential way. I even contributed a photo of the day to the father, and it ended up in the finished book.

Ben's final ride is a touching one that resonates deeply of parental anguish and reward. I won't spoil the details for you, but you should seek it out. It's cathartic for all of us readers, too.

Buy the book from the author's site (http://shmoolok.com/book) or Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/3500-Autistic-Ten-Year-Romance-White/dp/1482093308) or Kindle (http://www.amazon.com/3500-Autistic-Ten-Year-Romance-ebook/dp/B00BFTDHV4).

Disclosure: I was given early access to a PDF version of the book.
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Kevin Yee is the author of numerous independent Disney books, including the popular Walt Disney World Earbook series and Walt Disney World Hidden History.