William Joyce, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Illustrated by William Joyce & Joe Bluhm/ Fantasticele carti zburatoare ale Dlui Morris Lessmore, Editura Arthur
Printed 2012 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers (first published 2011). 52p
Everyone’s story matters.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore marks an unusual sequence as the book follows its movie. In 2011 the animated short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, directed by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg won the Oscar for The Best Animated Short Film and soon a book adaptation was released.
It is a moving story with a strong message, an allegory about the therapeutic power of books and the healing and encouraging values of libraries which in their universality bring together stories that provide a rebirth of the individual with every book that is read.
The main character, Morris Lesmore, is a bibliophile looking like actor Buster Keaton, a man whose 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 that he hoped for.
When Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and scattered his world and all the words in his beloved book became jumbled and senseless, Morris could do nothing but leave his grey, sad world and wander between ruins. In a moment of happiness he saw a lovely lady being pulled by flying books.
The flying lady knew Morris simply needed a good story, so she sent him her favourite. The book was an amiable fellow, and urged Morris to follow him.
Humpty Dumpty became his guide and led Morris to a beautiful, magic library where books, flying like butterflies and birds, invited him to discover their stories. A new and refreshing life began for Morris. He was busy arranging, reading and fixing the books. There is a splendid scene when, like a real surgeon, Morris tries to bring to life an old book with fragile binding and yellow pages.
Soon he found happiness in sharing his books with people that were still suffering from the effects of the hurricane. Inspired by The Wizard of Oz, Joyce uses the black and white – colour contrast to mark the sadness and devastation of people and the intensity and value the books can bring to their lives.
Revived, Morris would start writing again in his own book, for years and years until the end of his life when he left the library and flew away carried by flying books. His own book became part of the stories in the library and later a guide to a little girl.
The girl began to read. And so our story ends as it began… with the opening of a book.
William Joyce declared that he started working on the book in 1999 and wanted it to be a tribute to the late William Morris, his mentor, a children’s book publisher and a promoter of libraries but the hurricane Katrina destroyed Joyce’s house and interrupted his work for a while. Then he saw how powerful effect stories had on children living in shelters and included this in the narrative, conferring the story a very personal and touching perspective which make both the book and the animation stunning.
Complement The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore with A Child of Books, a beautiful story that pays homage to literature and The Jacket, the story of a book that tells the story of all books.