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Monday, July 9, 2012

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, written and illustrated by William Joyce. Atheneum, Simon & Schuster. 2012. $19.99 all ages

"It was filled with the fluttering of countless pages, and Morris could hear the faint chatter of a thousand different stories, as if each book was whispering an invitation to adventure."

I just now finished watching part of an interview with William Joyce about his glorious, and my new favorite, book. He tells the interviewer that the story had been building when Hurricane Katrina happened and 'things' got in the way of completing it. As he gathered first hand accounts of how the storm had affected so many, this story began to change shape.

One of the things he most noticed was that as people told their stories, the telling brought a sense of peace in the sharing. He observed that, despite the clamor and chaos that surrounded them, many of the children housed in huge, impersonal shelters, found refuge in their favorite books. It was an inspiring moment. Once again, Mr. Joyce saw the power of the printed page in the lives of even those affected by so much unrest and tragedy. His story had a renewed focus.

From its first page, we know that Morris loves words, and books, and stories. A hurricane alters that first perfect picture in stunning style.  In the wake of the storm, everything is awry. Houses are blown apart, and words and letters are blown right out of the books that house them. It is a disaster of the worst kind, and Mr. Lessmore's world is thrown into a state of confusion. Luckily, he has a guardian angel:
"The flying lady knew Morris simply needed a good story, so she sent him her favorite. The book was an amiable fellow, and urged Morris to follow him."

He is led through the devastation to a large and lovely country house. The exterior is fashioned from books, books float freely around and through its doors and its walls are and floors look like my TBR piles.  Morris has found the perfect place:

"Morris tried to keep the books in some sort of order, but they always mixed themselves up. The tragedies needed cheering up and would visit with the comedies. The encyclopedias, weary of facts, would relax with the comic books and fictions. All in all it was an agreeable jumble."

I love it! Thus begins his life among those books; caring for them, fixing them when needed, getting lost in them and then, sharing them. As he reads, he also writes of his life and learning. The years pass and he remains with his trusted friends. When his book is finally written and Morris realizes the time has come; he leaves with a smile and a message:

"I'll carry you all in here," he said, and pointed to his heart.

Leaving his book behind is his last grand gesture and beautifully completes the circle!

Thank you, William Joyce! What wonder you wrought!

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