Morris Lessmore loved words.
He loved stories.
He loved books.
But every story has its upsets.
Everything in Morris Lessmore’s life, including his own story, is scattered to the winds.
But the power of story will save the day.
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.
About the Author
Joe Bluhm is an Academy Award–winning artist who worked with William Joyce on The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. He’s also a character designer, animator, and recovering theme park caricaturist. He lives in Louisiana. Visit him at JoeBluhm.Blogspot.com.
What People are Saying About This
* Ironically, this book in praise of books first appeared as a much-praised iPad app and Academy Award–winning animated short film.
The story, in a nutshell, concerns the titular book-loving Mr. Morris Lessmore, whose personal library is blown away in a terrible wind but who finds meaning caring for the books he finds in a marvelous library. 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.
As triumphant in book form as in animated and interactive ones."
Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Joyce’s magnificently illustrated book-about-books inspired—yet arrives after—his 2011 animated short film of the same name, which won an Oscar. The unusual sequence of film-to-book (there’s an app, too) suggests that while books are indeed glorious things, what really matters is story. This one follows a dreamy bibliophile named Morris Lessmore, who loses his cherished book collection to a cataclysmic storm that’s half Katrina (Joyce is from Louisiana) and half Wizard of Oz. After meeting a “lovely lady... being pulled along by a festive squadron of flying books,” Morris finds an abandoned library whose books are alive and whose covers beat like the wings of birds. They flutter around him protectively, watch as he starts writing again, and care for him as he ages: “They read themselves to him each night.” Underneath this book-about-books, there’s a deeper story of love, loss, and healing, one that will be appreciated as much (if not more) by adults as by children."
* "If you loved the Oscar-winning film that goes by the same title, you will take to heart the book on which it is based. William Joyce exploits each medium to the fullest.
Morris Lessmore's life 'was a book of his own writing, one orderly page after another.' This serene opening scene shatters when a twister carries Morris away and sets him down in a black-and-white terrain. A woman appears in vibrant color in the sky, pulled by 'a festive squadron of flying books.' She sends down a volume with Humpty Dumpty featured in its pages, and the fellow leads Morris to a large building where light shines through the windows and shelves of books flutter their pages, 'as if each book were asking to be opened.'
In Joyce's artwork, the books come to life as a full cast of characters. After Morris repairs a damaged book, he reads it to revive it. He runs across the tops of capital letters and dangles from the hook of a J. 'All stories matter,'" he concludes. As Morris distributes books to his queued-up neighbors, they turn from black-and-white sketches to full-color portraits. In the most moving scene, the books surround the now white-haired man: 'Morris Lessmore became stooped and crinkly. But the books never changed. Their stories stayed the same,'" and they care for him as he has cared for them.
Morris stands in for all book lovers, and reminds us of the way stories live on only when we share them."
Shelf Awareness, starred review
JOYCE, William. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. illus. by author. 56p. S & S/Atheneum. 2012. ebook $12.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-6489-6; Tr $17.99. ISBN 978-1-4424-5702-7. Pre-Gr 3–Joyce’s Academy Award-winning animated short-film-turned-app that celebrates those who care about (and receive nourishment from) books is, ironically, now a picture book. The wonder and mystery inherent in the wordless film and the ability to manipulate the visuals and play the soundtrack on the app’s piano beg the question: Can the book compete? As it turns out, the book has its own rewards. Clarity comes from Joyce’s well-chosen words. In the opening on a New Orleans balcony, readers learn that Morris “loved words…stories…books.” Every day he would “write of his joys and sorrows, of all that he knew and everything that he hoped for.” When an Oz-like storm turns everything topsy-turvy, the melancholy man in the pork-pie hat spots a lady held aloft by a “festive squadron of flying books.” Her gift leads Morris to a book-filled sanctuary set in a landscape staged and lit like a Maxfield Parrish painting. He tends to the volumes, distributing favorites to visitors, whose once-gray bodies blossom with color. Every life and story ends, and those struggling with their own goodbyes (and yearnings about printed books) may find comfort in seeing the fading elder revert to his younger self in order to be transported by the joyful squadron–just as a little girl arrives to choose Morris’s story. The author’s motivations (explained on the flap) will resonate with adults in the reading business. The best part? Lingering quietly while savoring the atmospheric scenes of Joyce’s narrative vignette.
-SLJ, August 2012
"Joyce’s Academy Award-winning animated short-film-turned-app that celebrates those who care about (and receive nourishment from) books is, ironically, now a picture book. The wonder and mystery inherent in the wordless film and the ability to manipulate the visuals and play the soundtrack on the app’s piano beg the question: Can the book compete? As it turns out, the book has its own rewards. Clarity comes from Joyce’s well-chosen words. In the opening on a New Orleans balcony, readers learn that Morris “loved words…stories…books.” Every day he would “write of his joys and sorrows, of all that he knew and everything that he hoped for.” When an Oz-like storm turns everything topsy-turvy, the melancholy man in the pork-pie hat spots a lady held aloft by a “festive squadron of flying books.” Her gift leads Morris to a book-filled sanctuary set in a landscape staged and lit like a Maxfield Parrish painting. He tends to the volumes, distributing favorites to visitors, whose once-gray bodies blossom with color. Every life and story ends, and those struggling with their own goodbyes (and yearnings about printed books) may find comfort in seeing the fading elder revert to his younger self in order to be transported by the joyful squadron–just as a little girl arrives to choose Morris’s story. The author’s motivations (explained on the flap) will resonate with adults in the reading business. The best part? Lingering quietly while savoring the atmospheric scenes of Joyce’s narrative vignette."
-SLJ, August 2012
Reading Group Guide
A Reading Group Guide for
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
by William Joyce
Choose the questions and activities that work best with the age and interests of the child or class you are sharing this book with.
This is a story about books and hopes and about what you see if you take the time to look up.
1. At the beginning of the story, we learn that Morris Lessmore loved words. He loved stories and he loved books. What do you love?
2. After the storm, Morris feels lost and wanders around. Then he looks up and sees the flying lady with her squadron of flying books. Talk about how you see the world when you look down. How do you see the world when you look up?
3. The flying lady sees that Morris is sad and needs a new story so she gives him her favorite book. How can a story help someone feel better? Have you ever felt bad and then heard a story that made you feel better? What kinds of stories and books make you feel better?
4. Do you have any stories or special words that you tell yourself to help you feel better?
5. Every story has its upsets. Have you ever had an upset? Did anyone help you? What did you do to turn the upset around?
6. When Morris entered the building with all the books, he could hear faint chatter and it felt as if the books were asking to be opened and read. It has been said that every book needs a reader to bring it to life. What do you think?
7. Morris had lots of books: comedies, tragedies, encyclopedias. Can you think of other kinds of books he might have had in his library? What kinds of books would you want in your library?
8. What do you think it means to be lost in a book? Have you ever been lost in a book?
9. Why do you think Morris enjoyed sharing his books? Do you ever recommend or suggest books to friends? Talk about your favorite books and why you like them.
10. Things end and things begin again. How does it feel to know that when Morris decided it was time for him to leave, he ended the journey as he began it – being carried lightly away by the books and with a book opening? How does it feel to know that the little girl then began the journey?
11. When you leave, what matters most is what you’ve taken in – the memories, stories, and experiences. What would you like to be inside you?
12. At the end of the book Morris flies off with his favorite books. How can books make you fly?
13. Morris’s life was a book of his own writing. He wrote about his joys and sorrows, all that he knew and everything that he hoped for. What are your hopes?
14. Lessmore is an interesting name. Do you think it has any special meaning? When is less more?
15. This book has a special dedication page. Does reading it give you any new understanding of the story?
16. “If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.” (Barry Lopez, Crow and Weasel) Do you think Morris Lessmore would agree? What do you think?
Activities & Projects
1. The pictures in this book are very beautiful, whimsical and expressive. Try reading the book again just looking at the pictures. Do you notice anything new in pictures or the story that you didn’t see before? How do the pictures help to tell the story?
2. Libraries are a place where people share books. Visit a library. Notice all the different books. Do any of them call out to you to be read? Ask the librarian to recommend some of her favorite books.
3. Start your own library at home and/or in your class. Morris tried to arrange his library, but the books had their own ideas. How would you organize your library? What books would you put next to each other? Make special book plates with your name or the name of your class.
4. Make your own book. You can fold several sheets of paper and staple them together. Put a photo of yourself on the first page. Tell all about you. For different kinds of books and different ways to make them, check out the internet with a parent or teacher. A good place to start is http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/family/book-crafts.htm You can also learn how to make book plates and book jackets.
5. Morris loved words. What are some of your favorite words? Are there any words that make you feel bad? Make a list of words about when you feel happy, sad, brave, or silly.
6. Ask a parent or teacher to help you cut up magazines, newspapers or cereal boxes and create a collage of some of your favorite words.
7. Do a book advertisement. Draw or record or write about a book you like in a way that makes it sound interesting to other people. Create a web page or blog with your favorite titles.
8. Keep a dream book. Write about your hopes and dreams. Decorate the cover and include drawings and photos.
9. Have a party. Make special invitations asking everyone to come dressed as a favorite book character. Play charades or guessing games about the books the characters come from.
10. This book is also an Academy® Award-winning animated short. With a parent or teacher’s help, watch the movie on You.Tube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Adzywe9xeIU Talk about the differences and similarities between the movie version and the book.
11. Find out more about the author, William Joyce and read other books he has written and illustrated. You can begin here: About William Joyce http://authors.simonandschuster.net/William-Joyce/81797654 and for teachers, you can see or read an interview, biography and list of books at Reading Rocket http://www.readingrockets.org/books/interviews/joyce/