Man in the Ceiling

( 6 )

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.

Although not very good at sports or in his schoolwork, Jimmy can draw and dreams of being a great cartoonist; that dream seems within reach when star athlete Charley Beemer suggests they create comics together.

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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.

Although not very good at sports or in his schoolwork, Jimmy can draw and dreams of being a great cartoonist; that dream seems within reach when star athlete Charley Beemer suggests they create comics together.

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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."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062059079
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/28/1995
  • Series: A Trophy Bk.
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,376,963
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: 820L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.46 (d)

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."

Biography

Born the Bronx in 1929, Jules Feiffer got his first taste of the artistic accolades that were to come his way in the form of a gold medal awarded to him at the age of five in a school art contest. His love of art persisted throughout his childhood -- and after forging a career as a Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist, he would find success writing and illustrating books for children himself.

After high school, Feiffer’s talent for drawing led him to the Art Students League of New York and later earned him admittance to Brooklyn’s renowned Pratt Institute. His first paying job as a cartoonist was under the tutelage of idol Will Eisner, the famous father of the classic 1940s cartoon, “The Spirit.” Feiffer’s apprenticeship and fledgling comic strip career were interrupted, however, when he was drafted into the Army. There, he spent what little free time he was allowed doodling sketches with a decidedly anti-military bent, and his famous “Munro” character -- a four-year-old boy drafted into the Army by mistake -- was born.

After serving his time in the Army, Feiffer developed the comic strip Sick, Sick, Sick: A Guide to Non-confident Munro, which was later renamed, simply, Feiffer. The strip appeared regularly in publications from The Village Voice to The New York Times from 1956 to 1997, and Feiffer’s trademark style -- stark, scribbled figures emoting against a white background -- was promptly adopted by political cartoonists around the world. In April of 1958, an animated rendition of Sick, Sick, Sick won an Academy Award in the Short-Subject Cartoon category, and in 1996, Feiffer was awarded the Pulitzer for his biting editorial cartoons.

Feiffer's knack for capturing the turmoil of his times carried over from cartoons into other media. His play Little Murders -- a wry exploration of violence in urban life -- garnered several accolades when it was presented in 1967, among them the London Theatre Critics, Outer Circle Critics and Obie Awards. As New York Times theater reviewer Clive Barnes commented, "[Feiffer] muses on urban man, the cesspool of urban man's mind, the beauty of his neurosis, and the inevitability of his wilting disappointment." Feiffer's other plays include White House Murder Case (1970) and Anthony Rose (1990). In addition, Feiffer wrote the screenplays for several feature films, most notably Carnal Knowledge (1971) and Popeye (1980).

Feiffer’s motivation to write his first children’s book, according to legend, came from good old-fashioned spite. The story goes that a longtime friend of Feiffer's (who he won’t name) came up with a concept for a children's book based on their shared love of the movies. Feiffer agreed to hand over the illustrating duties to his friend and give writing it a shot, and toughed out every line. When he called the friend to report on his progress, Feiffer found out -- to his fury -- that his friend had decided to write it himself. Although his friend later apologized, Feiffer decided that in the end, they should each do their own books. He changed the subject of his work in progress from the movies to comic books, and The Man in the Ceiling -- a semi-autobiographical tale bout a boy and his love for drawing -- was born.

Selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the best children's books of 1993, the book was a runaway hit with kids and parents. Feiffer continued writing for his new, less jaded audience, offering up A Barrel of Laughs, A Vale of Tears (1998), I Lost My Bear (1998), Meanwhile… (1999), Bark, George (1999), I’m Not Bobby!, (2000) By the Side of the Road (2001), and The House Across the Street (2002). Far from the stark stencils that are his political cartoons, his children’s illustrations wriggle with life, their curvier lines in no way softening the lessons within.

Good To Know

Feiffer is the only cartoonist to have a comic strip published by The New York Times.

A fan of comic strips from an early age, Feiffer started to draw at the age of six. His favorites were Flash Gordon, Popeye, and Terry and the Pirates.

Feiffer didn't want Jack Nicholson cast for the lead in the 1971 film Carnal Knowledge, for which he wrote the screenplay. Director Mike Nichols fought Feiffer on the casting and finally convinced him to approve the up-and-coming actor.

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

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2014

    It was a good book, but not really what I was expecting. I mean,

    It was a good book, but not really what I was expecting. I mean, why does Jimmy try to please Charley. That's ridiculous.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2005

    Best Book

    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!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2002

    Great Book

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2002

    Fascinating Fable of Comic-Books

    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!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2000

    I can relate

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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