Stunningly brought to life by William Joyce, one of the preeminent creators in children’s literature, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a modern masterpiece, showing that in today’s world of traditional books, eBooks, and apps, it’s story that we truly celebrate—and this story, no matter how you tell it, begs to be read again and again.
The story begins with Mr. Morris Lessmore, absorbed in his personal library, writing his metaphor.
Suddenly, a gust of wind blows, slowly turning into a storm. The storm turns ferocious and his personal library is blown away. Saddened, he finds that the wind had blown away the words from his diary, the memoir that he was writing.
Once the storm subsides, he witnesses that it had devastated the entire city. Houses blown away, trees uprooted, people left homeless. All that he was left with was his red diary, his hat and his stick.
Suddenly, he notices a flying book, flapping its pages and flying away to glory. Awestruck, he looks at the sky, only to find a pretty lady, flying with the same kind of books. Looking at Mr. Morris Lessmore’s sad face, she directs one of the books to accompany him and then disappears.
Looking at Mr. Morris Lessmore’s sad face, she directs one of the books to accompany him and then disappears.
The book asks Mr. Morris Lessmore to follow it and so he follows. He follows the book to a library, a library so huge, so elegant, and that too, with flying books! There in the library, he finds a picture of that flying lady, hung on one of the walls.
Terrified first, Mr. Morris Lessmore, then gets accustomed to his surroundings and spends his time in the library all the time.
He works there. Enjoys with the books. Laughs and makes merry. He even gives life to an old book, on the verge of dying!
He gives books to people, who share his love of book reading.
Years and years he spends in the library and continues to write his memoir in his red diary.
He grows old and frail. On completing his memoir, he realises that, it is his time to leave.
Downcast, he steps out of the library, only to find himself regain his youth and vitality. He then goes away, like the flying lady, leaving his memoir (and his picture on the wall) behind, to help people like him, in times of despair.
Filled with both literary (Shakespeare, Humpty-Dumpty) and film references (The Wizard of Oz, The Red Balloon and Buster Keaton), the picture book version of Joyce‘s story has a quiet contemplative charm that demonstrates the continuing allure of the printed page. Paradoxically, the animated books of the film and app are captured as though in a series of frozen frames. The motif of the bound, printed book is everywhere. Even the furnishings and architectural details of the old-fashioned library in which the books “nest” like flying birds recall the codex. The unifying metaphor of life as story is a powerful one, as is the theme of the transformative power of books. The emphasis on connecting readers and books and the care of books pays homage to librarianship. Rich in allusions (“Less is More”) and brilliant in depicting the passage of time (images conflate times of day, seasons and years), Joyce’s work will inspire contemplation of the power of the book in its many forms.