William Joyce’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore highlights a man whose story had yet to be told. Morris, who loved books and stories, writes his own story into a book—“he would open it every morning and write of his joys and sorrows, of all that he knew and everything that he hoped for.” One day, a powerful wind blows and scatters all the words in his book; luckily, a woman in the sky, pulled by a bouquet of flying books (or as Joyce says, “a festive squadron”) offers Morris a good book to keep him company.
This book leads Morris to a building full of fluttering books, and Morris soon makes it his home, caring for the books, fixing their bindings and dog-eared pages. Morris shares all kinds of these books with others—even the “lonely little volume whose tale was seldom told.” Why? Because Mr. Morris Lessmore believes that every story matters. As time passes, Morris resumes writing his own book. In his old age, the roles reverse and his beloved book friends take care of him, reading themselves to him at night. Ultimately, Morris finishes writing his own book, and leaves his nestled book friends. The books soon discover, however, that Morris left something behind—his story. As the book concludes, a young girl has found Mr. Morris Lessmore’s story, “And so our story ends as it began…with the opening of a book.”
In this picture book turned Academy Award-winning short film, the pages pull the reader in. The illustrations depict so much motion, you feel as though when you glance around you are actually watching an animated movie. On these unique pages, books appear flying like birds, with their pages spread like wings; also, the books are depicted as adorable little creatures, walking around with little legs that have sprouted from their binding. Surprisingly, this is illustrator Joe Bluhm’s first picturebook, although he was won awards and acclaim for other of his artwork. Bluhm’s images play with the language in a clever and pleasing way; when Morris becomes “lost in a book” we see him hanging from giant J’s and flying across pages that pass by like skyscrapers.
Children, parents, and librarians alike will delight in this story for its appreciation of words and books of all shapes, sizes, and genres. It is an endearing tale, with just enough poignancy and playfulness. Children might just come away from it recognizing that a book can be a great companion.