The inspiration for the Academy Award winning short film in 2011, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is quite possibly one of the greatest stories I’ve ever read. Designed for children 5 years of age, the story of Mr. Morris Lessmore is bound to touch the hearts of every book fanatic. Not only does it reach out to the hearts of all who read it –no matter the age-, this book is a wonderful way to introduce children to the world of literature. It executes love and respect for books in a simple, heartwarming way with easy to understand concepts and breathtaking illustrations.
Written and partially illustrated by William Joyce, with the help of Joe Bluhm, this book tells the story of Mr. Morris Lessmore and his passion for words, stories, and all things regarding books. It also illustrates how something magnificent can come from something so tragic, which is a wonderful lesson to instill on young children. The theme throughout the story is all things books: it deals with reading, writing, book caregiving, and the importance and immortality of all stories. It’s a book about how and why books are so very precious. I highly recommend this story to any parent or teacher that aims to positively introduce young children to a love for reading.
The books starts with an introduction to Mr. Morris Lessmore, who is constantly reading books. Every day he imagines his life as a book, and with every new day comes a new blank page for him to write his joys and sorrows on. Then one day a storm comes blowing and destroys everything Mr. Morris has. His house, his books, his whole life. With nothing else to do, Mr. Morris then looks up and begins to wander. Upon his walk, he sees a girl flying away with books. Thoroughly intrigued, he attempts his own book fly and is deeply saddened when he realizes his book isn’t magical.
The flying girl witnesses this and sends one of her books to help him. Landing on Mr. Morris’s arm, the book then urges Mr. Morris to follow him where he eventually stumbles into what looks like a library or as Mr. Morris puts it “an extraordinary building where the books ‘nested’.”. He then begins a mission to read every book available, after hearing their whispers of adventure. Mr. Morris, being a lover of all words, stories, and books takes thorough care of each book by reading them each day and repairing any damages.
Soon, people of all ages gather to visit the library-they too want to hear the whispers of adventure each book has to offer. Mr. Morris begins to spend all of his time at the library, eventually calling it his home. Years come to pass, and we find Mr. Morris Lessmore has grown old. As the decades have gone by, every night as the books he’s come to love fall asleep, he writes in his book. He writes about his joys, his sorrows, all that he knew and everything he hoped for, just as he did before. Upon completion of his book, he realizes in his old age he must soon depart from the library.
Although he’s heartbroken to have to wish his books-his friends-goodbye, he understands that it’s his time to go. He wishes his friends goodbye, telling them that he’ll forever keep them in his heart, and begins his journey away from the library with the aid of a group of flying books. The books are sad that he has left them but rejoice knowing that Mr. Morris Lessmore left his book behind. Soon, a little girl comes wandering through the library to discover the one and only Mr. Morris’s book fly to her. The book ends as it began: with the opening of a book.
If the beautiful concept of the story didn’t make your heart completely swoon, the illustrations will definitely sell you. It begins with the vibrant cover page. Depicted on the cover is not only a very confused-looking Mr. Morris Lessmore, but a ton of his meticulously places magical flying books as well. This allows for a series of frame questions that the reader may ask the child. Some questions to get the readers thinking include: “What do you think the book is about?” or “Who is the main character-who is the story about?” after reading the title and studying the cover. I would also recommend a slightly damaged book as a prop for an in-story activity. As mentioned above, Mr. Morris Lessmore avidly repairs books. A fun activity to further enhance the child’s reading and comprehension would be to let them repair a book-just like Mr. Morris does (nothing too crazy-simply just allow them to straighten out a book page or let them smooth out a dog-eared page).
However, the beautiful illustrations and art work don’t end on the cover. The entire story features vibrant colour schemes, realistic pictures, and a book-theme print that really draws in the attention of the reader. There’s a beautiful contrast between Mr. Morris’s life before the library (which is more of a black/grey/white scheme) and his life after the discovery of the library (bright, vibrant colours that take up entire pages sometimes) as well. The depictions of Mr. Morris’s story truly enhance the story’s idealism and purpose.
Though remarkably visually appealing, the actual contents of the story is astounding for a young reader’s social and literacy development skills as well. In the social aspect, this book promotes assertiveness in independence through the tragedy that struck Mr. Morris. When the storm came through and destroyed Mr. Morris’s life’s work, he didn’t simply sulk and cry and feel sorry about himself and his horrible situation. Mr. Morris picked himself up and began to wander-something that he never would have done before. This lead him to the wonderful discovery of the girl with the flying books, and then in turn, to the library. This teaches children that something good can come from something bad; it shows perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds.
In the language aspect, the vocabulary that occurs in The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is wonderful for a developing mind. Words that are large but frequently used in day to day life such as “sorrow”, “scattered”, “extraordinary”, “mysterious” are largely printed, allowing easy access for a child to examine it. It also allows for a great extension activity. Throughout the book the reader can ask the child to point out any unfamiliar words. After or during the story (which ever the pair prefers), the pair can then create their own mini dictionary. The reader can help the child with the pronunciation and the definition of the unfamiliar word, and after writing it in the mini dictionary, can refer back to it throughout the week to successfully add it to the child’s vocabulary.
Another activity that would further entice a child would be to allow them to create their own story, as Mr. Morris spends his whole life doing. Ask the child what their sorrows, joys, and hopes are, along with everything else they know and want to include. Get them to create sentences and illustrate their own pictures to get their minds thinking, aiding them whenever needed. This is a wonderful activity to not only to develop your child’s literacy skills, but it helps with bonding to your child as well.
All in all, I not only recommend this story to children age 5, but to all the book lovers out there. Although designed for young children, I truly believe this is a book everyone can enjoy-a classic. William Joyce words and illustrations with the aid of Joe Bluhm truly made a magnificent piece of art with their story The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. A good read for the whole family, this book promotes not only the significance of books, but easily aids children in developing crucial social and literacy skills with its strong, touching story line and wonderful word choice. For teachers and parents who wish to introduce young children to the love of reading and a passion for books, this is certainly the book for you!
The link to the Academy Award winning short film HERE.
Published by: Jenna O’Brien