Pages of Attraction
A good book goes hand in hand with sipping a cool drink when lounging next to the wave pool. But let’s be honest: This is summer, the season of operating after sunset and working weekends for many in the global attractions industry. Reading in the middle of a busy season can offer an escape, no matter when a moment of peace can be found. Here is a diverse selection of recent titles—all rooted in attractions—that are perfect for a summer read by those of all ages.
THE SUMMER THRILLER
“Sharks in Lake Erie”
by H. John Hildebrandt; published by Casa Flamingo Literary Arts
Fresh off of his memoir, “Always Cedar Point”—what the retired vice president and general manager of Cedar Point amusement park calls “a chance to look under the hood” of the Sandusky, Ohio, attraction—John Hildebrandt releases his first work of fiction in late May. “Sharks in Lake Erie” is a mystery set along the Lake Erie Islands, the City of Sandusky, and, of course, Cedar Point.
“It’s a thriller,” Hildebrandt tells Funworld. “Cedar Point has a presence in the story.”
Hildebrandt is holding the plot close to the vest but promises surprise and intrigue off the coast of Cedar Point’s skyline.
ONE FOR THE HISTORY BOOKS
“Kings Island: A Ride Through Time”
by Evan Ponstingle; published by Rivershore Creative
When Gary Wachs began developing a new attraction north of Cincinnati in the early 1970s, he took a risk.
“Cincinnati’s Coney Island was tremendously popular, and it took a lot of guts to say, ‘We’re going to close it down and build a new park 20 miles north with a $6 admission fee,’” author Evan Ponstingle says.
Published in April, “Kings Island: A Ride Through Time” tells the story of the park’s development, as shared by its various caretakers, including Jane Cooper, Keith James, Dick Kinzel, Dennis Speigel, and the current Kings Island vice president and general manager, Mike Koontz, among others.
“Evan’s historical accuracy is spot on, his interviews are riveting, and his chronology is on target,” says Speigel, founder and CEO of International Theme Park Services Inc. and Kings Island’s first assistant general manager. Quite the compliment, since Ponstingle published the book at age 17.
THE RISE OF REGIONAL PARKS
“Imagineering an American Dreamscape”
by Barry R. Hill; published by Rivershore Creative
In “Imagineering an American Dreamscape,” the rise of North America’s regional theme parks begins in 1961 as Angus Wynne opens Six Flags Over Texas. Soon after, executives who made everything from beer to candy bars wanted their own park.
“I wanted to show where the influences came from, the people behind the parks, how they came to be built, and how they’ve changed over the years with various changes in ownership and other factors,” author Barry R. Hill tells Funworld. And he did.
“This book does a great job showcasing the innovators and inspiration behind America’s most-beloved regional theme parks,” says Anthony Esparza, former creative officer at Herschend Family Entertainment, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, and Paramount Parks.
FOR YOUNG READERS
by Nicole Kear;
published by Imprint
Just released in paperback, “Foreverland” loosely follows the story of “Peter Pan” with a modern twist. Author Nicole Kear creates a Neverland for readers ages 8 to 13.
“‘Foreverland’ takes place in a fictional amusement park, born of my own imagination, but heavily inspired by the parks I loved as a child and the ones my kids love now,” Kear says.
In “Foreverland,” Margaret has a transformative adventure, which helps the protagonist find her voice. Kear says lessons include how friendship can be life-changing, how courage comes through trial, and how sometimes you have to get lost in order to find yourself.
“Readers will learn that life can be a roller coaster, and it helps if you can learn to enjoy the ride,” she says.
THE PICTORIAL ROAD TRIP
“Tim O’Brien’s Roadside
Pics & Picks”
by Tim O’Brien; published by Casa Flamingo Literary Arts
“I am the son of wanderlust and I have a camera,” writes Tim O’Brien in his latest book. As a journalist with Amusement Business, O’Brien would often take the backroad in hopes of finding the odd, the creative, and the downright wacky. “These are the things you see when driving from attraction to attraction,” O’Brien says of the roadside gems found in the book that’s 30 years in the making. “Tim O’Brien’s Roadside Pics & Picks” celebrates Airstream trailers positioned like Stonehenge, the world’s largest ketchup bottle (doubling as a water tower), and enough oversized animals to fill an ark—all shared in colorful photographs.
“A photo is its own little miracle,” O’Brien says, and his latest book proves it.
THREE CENTURIES AND COUNTING
“Idlewild: History and Memories of Pennsylvania’s Oldest Amusement Park”
by Jennifer Sopko; published by The History Press
As Pennsylvania’s oldest operating amusement park, Idlewild in Ligonier Valley embraces its history.
“I think Idlewild’s magic lies in its longevity as a communal gathering place,” says author Jennifer Sopko. In her book, “Idlewild: History and Memories of Pennsylvania’s Oldest Amusement Park,” Sopko extensively documents how the park has evolved from a simple picnic grove into a traditional amusement park over 143 years.
A LESSON FOR LEADERS
“The CEO’s Time Machine”
by Geoff Thatcher; published by Casa Flamingo Literary Arts
The plot twists are wild, yet the message to the C-suite is clear: Listen to your brightest employees … or risk going the way of Oldsmobile and the cassette tape.
Author Geoff Thatcher is an attractions designer whose pandemic passion project became “The CEO’s Time Machine,” a short read targeting leaders.
“What I love about this industry is that so many executives got their start as teenagers at theme parks,” says Thatcher, who began his career as a self-described “14-year-old cleanup boy” in Farmington, Utah, at Lagoon. “But too often, leaders forget the lessons of the past.”
Thatcher’s main character warns leaders to understand the importance of creativity, open-mindedness, and listening—and how each can be applied to strategic growth.
THE BEDTIME STORY
“Fiona Helps a Friend”
by Zondervan, illustrated by Richard Cowdrey;
published by Zonderkidz
She made headlines and stole hearts four years ago. Now Fiona the famed hippopotamus—born prematurely and cared for by nurses at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital—has a new story to tell. “Fiona Helps a Friend,” available in paperback May 18, follows the hippo as she sorts through the lost-and-found box at her home inside the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden. The children’s book is filled with lessons about friendship, love, helping others, and the power of laughter.
“Her story is one of hope. It’s inspirational, and it shines a spotlight on the wonderful animal care that is happening at zoos and aquariums,” says zoo marketing director Chad Yelton of the New York Times bestselling book series featuring Fiona.
INSIDE THE FAMILY BUSINESS
“Land of Fun”
by Chris Lindsley
In Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, the Fasnacht family is the first family of fun—literally. Patriarch Al Fasnacht, now 92, worked five hours a day at Funland prior to COVID-19—from taking out the trash to operating kiddie rides—seven days a week.
In “Land of Fun,” author Chris Lindsley examines what goes into making a customer-focused attraction.
“The Fasnacht family have always been leaders by example,” Lindsley tells Funworld. “They didn’t tell you what to do; they showed you—and that included the not-so-glamorous jobs.”
The park known for not raising ride ticket prices for its first 25 years, will soon welcome a fifth generation of employees, each who grew up in the family business.