William Joyce, author
Joe Bluhm, illustrator
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Fiction, 2012
Suitable for: Ages 4-8
Themes: Books, Love, Loss, Healing, Aging
Opening and brief synopsis: “Morris Lessmore loved words. He loved stories. He loved books. His life was a book of his own writing, one orderly page after another. He would open it every morning and write of his joys and sorrows, of all that he knew and everything that he hoped for.” One day there was a very bad storm that blew so hard that he lost his home and all the books he loved so much. Not knowing what to do he started walking. A lady drifted through the sky pulled by a bouquet of books. The lady tossed down her favorite book and beckoned him to follow her to a strange building that housed books. But the books in the building weren’t ordinary — they were extraordinary. Many books required repair. Morris started to restore and care for the books. Some times he got lost in the books. Morris shared the books with people. And, once again he began to write in his own book.
Why I love this book: The book is about life experiences — love, loss and healing. Adults will enjoy this book. It is a brilliant book that took William Joyce 13 years to write. The book began as a tribute to a friend, but after Hurricane Katrina devastated Joyce’s home state, his book was put on hold. Joyce visited children in shelters and saw firsthand the healing power of books. So the storm in the book is a combination of Katrina and the cyclone in the Wizard of Oz. Joe Bluhm’s illustrations are stunning. Bluhm uses brown hues similar to the opening of Oz, to give the stark effect of the storm in the book. As Morris wanders, the book is full of colorful and expressive illustrations.
Resources: There are many themes that parents and teachers can explore when reading this book with a children. Since the idea grew out of Hurricane Katrina and the tragic losses, it would be a good time to discuss with kids what it means to lose everything and how you rebuild lives with the love and help of family and community. Donated books were an escape for the kids of Katrina. We’ve once again experienced devastation with Hurricane Isaac. As a family you may want to donate to a reputable charity. Another way to help displaced children in your community is to have your kids donate used books to local organizations. The book also is about imagination and reading. Be creative and encourage your kids to make a mobile of their favorite book cover titles to hang in their room, similar to the flying woman and the books.
Visit William Joyce at his website. Joyce first won an Academy Award for his short film The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, then turned the film into this imaginative book. I’ve include a short clip of the video, but the entire film is available on YouTube. The book also is available as an iPad app.
To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.