Review: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore

flying books catalog link

November is Picture Book Month. I can’t think of a better book to embody it than The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

Morris is a meticulous word person. Every day he writes his hopes and dreams in a journal, until an Oz-like cyclone scatters his words and turns his world gray. Luckily, a lady throws him a lifeline: one of her books, buoyant as a balloon and flying like a bird. (I wonder if she’s related to Luna.) These books live in a library of sorts, where Morris becomes their lifelong caretaker. And then the books take care of him, until…

I want to live inside this book. It just has verve. And whimsy, and sentient books that play the piano and perch on your arm like butterflies. Very social butterflies. Forget Library of Congress shelving; the comedies cheer up the tragedies, and the graphic novels help the encyclopedias take a load off. It’s the personification of eclectic reading. What more could you ask for?

The illustrations have, if you’ll excuse the cliche, a life of their own. The colors pop when Morris discovers the right book, and the gray people he shares with almost bloom when they leave the library. When he gets lost in a story, it’s literal; he’s dwarfed by the page, swinging from serifs and letter hooks. The books are mostly faceless (with the exception of a dramatic Humpty Dumpty), but nonetheless expressive; one looks to be lounging on its stomach and reading itself, and two embrace armlessly on a corner of a page. There’s almost a hum, a feeling, a wordless conversation. They grow old with Morris; the books trooping down the hill with their little staffs are priceless. This book is worth getting lost in; lean close. Get a magnifying glass; no detail is wasted. It’s full of little nudges and quirks.

It’s perfect; if you want to show that books enrich your life, show the books having a life. Bring the perspective near, so we’re surrounded by the book; bring it to life. I don’t think it’s an accident that Morris’ first bright book is a picture book of nursery rhymes, or that it becomes his oldest friend. This is why a love of  reading so often begins with pictures; this is what picture books are, in part, supposed to do.

Related reading:

The Lonely Book

The Great Good Thing

La Coleccionista de Palabras, or The Word Collector

About Amy

Children's librarian, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
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