Man in the Ceiling

Man in the Ceiling

4.6 6
by Jules Feiffer
     
 

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He's bad at sports and not much better at school, but Jimmy sure can draw terrific cartoons. And his dream, like that of his Uncle Lester, who writes flop Broadway musicals'is to be recognized for what he loves doing most.

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Overview

He's bad at sports and not much better at school, but Jimmy sure can draw terrific cartoons. And his dream, like that of his Uncle Lester, who writes flop Broadway musicals'is to be recognized for what he loves doing most.

Editorial Reviews

New York Times
One of those crossbreeds. . . [a novel for children and adults], sharing a genre with such illustrious neighbors as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and The Little Prince.
Children's Literature - Susie Wilde
Jimmy Jibbett, the hero of Feiffer's first children's novel, The Man in the Ceiling is, like his creator, an innocent. Jimmy gives a preadolescent view that is fresh, unusual, and underrepresented. Jimmy, a ten-year-old cartoonist, lives with a difficult family. His cute younger sister, Susu, wheedles attention. His older sister, Lisi, has yet to give up temper tantrums (probably because they serve her so effectively). His father struggles to change from a driven businessman to a sensitive male. Jimmy's mother hides from her children in an attic "sanctum sanctorum," designing clothes and chiding Jimmy whenever he behaves "ungenerously." Jimmy is, in fact, the most generous child ever depicted in a middle grade novel. Jimmy is compassionate and understanding, never martyring, always accepting. "What's unusual about Jimmy, " says Feiffer, "is that he's really not angry at his family. He's just trying to understand things and so much in the adult world is beyond his understanding. Jimmy's the kind of kid who always exists for the purpose of the grownups, not for himself, as if he's there to serve them."

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062059079
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
06/28/1995
Series:
A Trophy Bk.
Pages:
192
Sales rank:
904,711
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.46(d)
Lexile:
820L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Sometimes Jimmy imagined his father carrying a canoe on his shoulder and sometimes not. The trouble Jimmy had with the canoe idea was that, if they were trekking through these thick woods, wasn't the canoe likely to bang into trees, knocking his father off balance, possibly into a swamp with live alligators? Actually, not a bad idea. Or this: What if the canoe got tangled in the branches of a tree, high off the ground, and just hung there? Jimmy liked that even better than the alligator idea. He had to laugh as he drew it.

Jimmy's father called him "kiddo" in the stories that Jimmy made up. Jimmy didn't entirely mind that his actual father didn't call him "kiddo" or take him camping in the woods. First of all, it wouldn't have been as much fun, and second, his father was too busy and overworked to take him camping in the woods. The word Jimmy heard most about his father was "overworked". The way his mother said it, "overworked" sounded important, even a little mysterious, something that perhaps Jimmy should grow up to be.

Father always brought home a pile of papers from the aircraft plant where he overworked, not far from where Jimmy and his family lived in Upper Montclair. "Don't touch my papers," Father said every time, although neither Jimmy nor his mother or sisters ever dreamed of going near his papers. just to look at them was enough to know that these were papers not meant to be touched. They had equations. Father might just as well have said, "Don't touch my atom bomb". Why in the world did he think that Jimmy would be tempted?

At times, Jimmy drew on the floor just behind the metal desk where Father worked on his papers. It madehim feel that they were colleagues of sorts, two men-the only two in the family-busily making mysterious marks on sheets of paper. I say "mysterious" because Father no more understood Jimmy's drawings than Jimmy understood Father's equations. Jimmy felt self-conscious drawing with Father nearby. He pretended that Father was not really working on his equations but watching Jimmy out of the corner of his eye. So every line Jimmy drew was a line for Father. Not that Father got it. Mother sometimes got it, but she was an artist herself, so it was to be expected. His older sister, Lisi, got it, but she was Jimmy's biggest fan, so big deal! But Father? Father never got it.

The effort it took to make a good Indiana Jones drawing made Jimmy grunt. The grunts were for Father's benefit. Jimmy hoped that just once Father would look up and say, "Not as easy as it looks, right, kiddo?" But Father didn't hear Jimmy's grunts. He was lost in thought over his equations. Sometimes Jimmy invented things to say to get his attention. Like one time he asked, "If you love, I mean really love your job, isn't it fair that you should be paid less?"

This was on his mind because, while he intended to grow up to draw cartoons (which he loved), still and all, he had to make money to support a family. So the question was not frivolous. Jimmy continued: "If a job is fun, maybe you shouldn't get paid-or O.K., paid, but food and carfare and something for the movies. I mean, shouldn't you get paid more for a job you hate?"

Father's pen hand stopped jotting down numbers. His eyes lost focus and his face took on a funny, pinched look. It was as if he were trying to translate Jimmy's words into his own native tongue. But that couldn't be, because Father was born in Columbus, Ohio.

"Don't bother your father, he's busy," said Jimmy's mother, who seemed never to be there except to stop Jimmy from bothering his father. At other times she said, "Don't bother your father, he's resting," which simply wasn't true. Jimmy never saw Father rest. Even asleep, he looked like it was a job.

So, between a busy father and a resting father (as if!), Jimmy chose to create a father he could bother. And this father-his Indiana Jones of a father-was so ideal that Jimmy wouldn't have wanted his actual father to be like that. It would confuse things. He didn't mind sharing his actual father with his two sisters, Lisi and Susu, but his Indiana Jones of a father? No way!

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Meet the Author

Jules Feiffer has won a number of prizes for his cartoons, plays, and screenplays, including the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. His books for children include The Man in the Ceiling, A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears, I Lost My Bear, Bark, George, and Meanwhile... He lives in New York City. In His Own Words...

"I have been writing and drawing comic strips all illy life, first as a six-year-old, when I'd try to draw like my heroes: Alex Raymond, who did Flash Gordon, E. C. Segar, who did Popeye, Milton Caniff, who did Terry and the Pirates. The newspaper strip back in the I 1940s was a glorious thing to behold. Sunday pages were full-sized and Colored broadsheets that created a universe that could swallow a boy whole.

"I was desperate to be a cartoonist. One of my heroes was Will Eisner, who did a weekly comic book supplement to the Sunday comics. One day I walked into his office and showed him my samples. He said they were lousy, but lie hired me anyway. And I began my apprenticeship.

"Later I was drafted Out of Eisner's office into tile Korean War. Militarism, regimentation, and mindless authority combined to squeeze the boy cartoonist Out Of me and bring out the rebel. There was no format at the time to fit [he work I raged and screamed to do, so I had to invent one. Cartoon satire that commented on the Lin military the Bomb, the Cold War, the hypocrisy of grownLIPS, the mating habits of urban Young men and women, these were my subjects. After four years of trying to break into print and getting nowhere, the Village Voice, the first alternative newspaper, offered to publish me. Only one catch: They couldn't Pay me. What (lid I care?

"My weekly satirical strip, Sick Sick Sick, later renamed Feiffer started appearing in late 1956. Two years later, Sick Sick Sick came out in book form and became a bestseller. The following years saw a string of cartoon collections, syndication, stage and screen adaptations of the cartoon. One, Munro, won an Academy Award.

"This was heady stuff, taking me miles beyond my boyhood dreams. The only thing that got in the way of my enjoying it was the real world. The Cuban missile crisis, the assassination of President Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights revolution. The country was coining unglued and my weekly cartoons didn't seem to be an adequate way of handling it. So I started writing plays: Little Murders, The White House Murder Case, Carnal Knowledge, Grownups. All the themes of my comic strips expanded theatrically and later, cinematically to give me the time and space I needed to explain the times to myself and to my audience.

"I grew older. I had a family, and late in life, a very young family. I started thinking, as old guys will, about what I wanted these children to read, to learn. I read them E.B. White and Beverly Cleary and Roald Dahl, and, one day, I thought, I ley, I can do this."

"Writing for young readers connects me profess sionally to) a part of myself that I didn't know how to let out until I was sixty: that kid who lived a life of innocence, mixed with confusion and consternation, disappointment and dopey humor. And who drew comic strips and needed friends—and found them—in cartoons and children's books that told him what the grown-ups in his life had left out. That's what reading (lid for me when I was a kid. Now, I try to return the favor."

Jules Feiffer has won a number of prizes for his cartoons, plays, and screenplays, including the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning. His books for children include The Man in the Ceiling, A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears, I Lost My Bear, Bark, George, and Meanwhile... He lives in New York City. In His Own Words...

"I have been writing and drawing comic strips all illy life, first as a six-year-old, when I'd try to draw like my heroes: Alex Raymond, who did Flash Gordon, E. C. Segar, who did Popeye, Milton Caniff, who did Terry and the Pirates. The newspaper strip back in the I 1940s was a glorious thing to behold. Sunday pages were full-sized and Colored broadsheets that created a universe that could swallow a boy whole.

"I was desperate to be a cartoonist. One of my heroes was Will Eisner, who did a weekly comic book supplement to the Sunday comics. One day I walked into his office and showed him my samples. He said they were lousy, but lie hired me anyway. And I began my apprenticeship.

"Later I was drafted Out of Eisner's office into tile Korean War. Militarism, regimentation, and mindless authority combined to squeeze the boy cartoonist Out Of me and bring out the rebel. There was no format at the time to fit [he work I raged and screamed to do, so I had to invent one. Cartoon satire that commented on the Lin military the Bomb, the Cold War, the hypocrisy of grownLIPS, the mating habits of urban Young men and women, these were my subjects. After four years of trying to break into print and getting nowhere, the Village Voice, the first alternative newspaper, offered to publish me. Only one catch: They couldn't Pay me. What (lid I care?

"My weekly satirical strip, Sick Sick Sick, later renamed Feiffer started appearing in late 1956. Two years later, Sick Sick Sick came out in book form and became a bestseller. The following years saw a string of cartoon collections, syndication, stage and screen adaptations of the cartoon. One, Munro, won an Academy Award.

"This was heady stuff, taking me miles beyond my boyhood dreams. The only thing that got in the way of my enjoying it was the real world. The Cuban missile crisis, the assassination of President Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights revolution. The country was coining unglued and my weekly cartoons didn't seem to be an adequate way of handling it. So I started writing plays: Little Murders, The White House Murder Case, Carnal Knowledge, Grownups. All the themes of my comic strips expanded theatrically and later, cinematically to give me the time and space I needed to explain the times to myself and to my audience.

"I grew older. I had a family, and late in life, a very young family. I started thinking, as old guys will, about what I wanted these children to read, to learn. I read them E.B. White and Beverly Cleary and Roald Dahl, and, one day, I thought, I ley, I can do this."

"Writing for young readers connects me profess sionally to) a part of myself that I didn't know how to let out until I was sixty: that kid who lived a life of innocence, mixed with confusion and consternation, disappointment and dopey humor. And who drew comic strips and needed friends—and found them—in cartoons and children's books that told him what the grown-ups in his life had left out. That's what reading (lid for me when I was a kid. Now, I try to return the favor."

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Brief Biography

Hometown:
New York, New York
Date of Birth:
January 26, 1929
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Education:
The Pratt Institute, 1951

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The Man in the Ceiling 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a good book, but not really what I was expecting. I mean, why does Jimmy try to please Charley. That's ridiculous.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book! I could never put it down! I would bring it to lunch everytime, do my school assignments fast so I could read it! I read it in 3 days!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I still do! I have never read a book like this before. Having the little boy's comics in the book helped you understand him and what he was going through. I recommend this book to any kid that loves to draw.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can identify with Jimmy in many ways, as my family too, brings me under a feel of obscurity at times. I too am also a person who enjoys writing and illustrating homemade comic-books, which also brought forth meaning towards myself. This one is a genuine classic. ***** I Want An Encore!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read The Man in the Ceiling and I thought it was a great book. It told the story of a young boys life with a family who did not appreciate him. I think the author did a great job in writing something a kid could relate too. I think the boy in the story is very well described through his ideas and thoughts through the book, you get an idea of what kind of boy he is. I think you should read it today.