Author: Canadian Diva & British Diva
It was serendipitous really, for British Diva wrote this wonderfully cheeky article. “How I Visited Walt Disney World Without Ever Leaving Home” . In this article, British Diva is the star named, “Flat Jane”, based on the character Flat Stanley. After reading her article, I found out that one of my student’s father, Josh Greenhut, is the author of the recent “Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventure” books. Upon my wonderment of this provident revelation, I had the idea of having a conversation with Mr. Greenhut.
And so we did! Via a conference call, our conversation felt like having tea among writers, although Mr. Greenhut may have felt, at times, having two excited hens clucking away at his brain.
First, let me give you a bit of history about this wonder-boy character, Flat Stanley…
The year 2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the cherished children’s story of Flat Stanley, created by the late Jeff Brown. Flat Stanley is about a boy named Stanley Lambchop. He was given a bulletin board to hang in his bedroom, but one night the board dropped on Stanley and made him flat! Being flat has taken Stanley on many adventures from catching criminals to meeting people from around the world. Through Stanley’s eyes, young readers learn about various cultures as well as discrimination, empathy and acceptance.
In 2009 Flat Stanley was inducted into the American Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.. With the idea of promoting awareness of geography to children, young writers from ages 7 to 12 were encouraged to write their own Flat Stanley adventures, for a contest. The prize was a vacation with Adventures by Disney! Author Josh Greenhut attended the official event and read Flat Stanley books to students visiting there. It was so cute to see pictures of many children wearing their Mickey Mouse ears while listening and talking with Author Josh Greenhut at this inaugural event.
Now a little about Mr. Josh Greenhut. He is 40 years old and grew up in New Jersey. His wife Susan is a children’s book editor. There is a famous story that he once he mailed a Flat Stanley to a Halloween party that Susan was hosting, which was 300 miles away! They married and now live in Toronto with their two wonderful children. Mr. Greenhut has written more than 15 children’s books, which includes books in Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures.
British Diva and I wanted to know a little about Josh and his approach to continuing the Flat Stanley legacy.
A recurring theme we noted about Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures is how similar the books are to the Epcot World Showcase in Walt Disney World. The “Cultural Touchstones” of each country in the World Showcase, showing pieces of that country to visitors (or what British Diva would say, “bite-sized nuggets”). Just as when Stanley Lambchop visits countries around the world on his adventures, countries like: Mexico, Japan, China, Australia, Egypt, readers get a glimpse through the characters Stanley encounters and their culture in the books. Of course we are not able to get the whole view of a country, but it’s such a great way to start to learn about other cultures and their respective countries. This brings attention to the awareness that Harper Collins Publishing, Adventures by Disney and the American Library of Congress wanted – for children to broaden their knowledge about geography through reading and writing. Josh Greenhut also includes some fun facts at the end of the Flat Stanley books he wrote, relating to the country or place that Stanley just visited.
Another issue we touched upon, was the notion of being “different”. Throughout the early books of Flat Stanley by creator, Jeff Brown, to the present day Flat Stanley Worldwide Adventures series, we see the discrimination that Stanley faces about being “flat”. He is teased, he is stared at, he is left out yet he does amazing things despite his differences and it is because of his differences that he is able to do what he does. By learning about Stanley’s differences as well as his encounters with people from different cultures, young readers get a sense of understanding and becoming open-minded to people of different backgrounds and physical appearances. Josh mentioned an upcoming book about Stanley visiting California and his cousin who is in a wheelchair. He based Stanley’s cousin on his own niece, Lily, who has cerebral palsy. Flat Stanley and his cousin shows incredible abilities despite their differences. British Diva stated the progressive thinking of the Flat Stanley series and how in our society, it is so easy to pigeon-hole people. Yet with amazing stories like the many Flat Stanley Adventures, stereotypes are broken down and understanding of each other in this world expands.
Other similar issues that we talked about is how Mr. Greenhut uses his character to break down some stereotypical notions in our society. He really opens our minds of how we view people in the world, just as Flat Stanley does. For example, having a female President of the United States of America in Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures: The US Capital Commotion (although this may happen in the near future) or a female Matador who helps Stanley save the day in Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures: The Amazing Mexican Secret. Stanley meets a very kind Bush Tracker in Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventures: The Australian Boomerang Bonanza , who seems gruff and rough on the outside but helped Stanley when Stanley was lost in the Outback.
We discussed about this year’s Disney promotion “Showing your #DisneySide” and British Diva asked Josh Greenhut which Disney Character he felt he is most like. He said Woody from the Toy Story series. We also asked which Disney Character he felt, Stanley Lambchop was most like and Mr. Greenhut mentioned Woody again. He stated that there is a wholesomeness to Woody. That Woody is an inspiring and warm-hearted character with very strong core values similar to Stanley Lambchop as well. They both want to always do what is best and right in this world, and are always accepting of others.
As our conversation was coming to an end, I thought about the last line in Flat Stanley’s Worldwide Adventure, The US Capital Commotion (written by Josh Greenhut), it says, “Stanley, Thank you for bringing us together”. Indeed Flat Stanley, thank you for 50 years of bringing readers, young and old, from all parts of the world and of whom have many differences in backgrounds and abilities…. together.
Mr. Greenhut has been to Disney World when he was a child and later this year he will be going on a Disney Cruise with his family! We wish him and his family the most MAGICAL TIME filled with Pixie Dust as they journey on their own Disney Adventure.