The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore
William Joyce & Joe Bluhm
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2012
“Morris Lessmore loved words. He loved stories. He loved books. His life was a book of his own writing, one orderly page after another. He would open it every morning and write of his joys and sorrows, of all that he knew and everything he hoped for.” Dressed in a dapper brown suit, he would sit on the balcony of his hotel room, surrounded by books read, to-be-read and to-read-again, and write his beloved story. Until, one day, in something reminiscent of the tornado in The Wizard of Oz, his world is turned upside down and everything he knows is scattered, even the words of his book. Sadly, bemused and confused, he wanders through a dark and colourless world looking down in deep depressionm until “a happy bit of happenstance came his way” and he looks up, to see a lovely lady drifting above him pulled along by “a festive squadron of flying books”. Knowing that all he needed was a good story, she sent him her favourite … leading him onto a whole new chapter of his life as he discovers the treasures of a library and how it helps him and those around him…
Reviewing a book that won an Oscar in 2011 for Best Animated Short Film and was an acclaimed animated app, both before it made its print debut is somewhat daunting for what can I say that hasn’t already been said? But such is my conviction that this book must be on your shelves, I felt I had to bring it to your attention. To quote Shanetia P. Clark’s review from the Nerdy Book Club (founded by Donalyn Miller of The Book Whisperer), “This carefully crafted tale needs to be on display in every classroom, every library, and every home. It illuminates the importance of sharing great stories with one another, the joy of being caught up in a story; and the transactional connection between the written word and reader. The illustrations, too, tell a beautiful story and work in concert with the written text.”
It would be the perfect title to start a new school year of reading – for the younger students as a read-aloud to introduce them to the magic of story. Morris likes to share books with others and the illustrations show them arriving as grey and colourless but, having been given a book, leaving in glorious colour. So talk about what books they would share with each other if they were Morris (or you) and in charge. Make lists and display them so no one is ever short of a recommendation.
For older students, as well as hsaring their recommended reads to brighten lives, delve deeper than reading along the lines to reading between and beyond. To help you get started explore these questions and activities or consider how colour has been used in the illustrations.
YouTube has a range of clips that bring the story to life; the app is available through iTunes and there is even one called the IMAG-N-O-THON which brings the pages of the book alive when they are viewed through an iPad 2/3 or an iPhone; and there is a ‘music techer’s companion’ so there is lots of scope to compare portrayals through different media.
If you are not yet familiar with this beautiful story and its equally rich and stunning illustrations, you need to be. If you have it on your shelves but have forgotten about it, then bring it out and start this new school year with a winner. It’s a picture book for everyone.