The Power of Story

“Morris Lessmore loved words. He loved stories. He loved books…But every story has its upsets.”

So begins The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” by William Joyce. The interesting thing is that the children’s book from which the quote comes had its beginnings in an Academy Award-winning short animated film and was later manifested in an iPad app. What a great use of multiple media forms! My experience with the story is only in its film form, and it is one of the most beautiful tributes to the transformational capacity of books and libraries I have ever seen (actually, it’s one of the few films that has been able to make me cry, so there you go).

The story revolves Morris Lessmore, a writer, who is caught up in a tornado that literally sucks the words from the pages of his books, not to mention all the color from the world. After wandering around for a while in the newly gray, dismal world, he comes across a library in which books flutter like birds across aisles to roost in the shelves. Once Morris crosses the threshold, color returns to him, since the library itself is full of color and life.

I won’t give away what happens in the rest of the story, but two scenes truly struck me as a lover of books and as someone who enjoys sharing a love of books with others. First, Morris attempts to repair an aged, torn book, but tape and new bindings are not enough…it is only when he reads the book that it is restored to life. Is that not so true? The only purpose of a book is to be read. No matter what online booksellers may tell you, the condition of a book does not determine its worth.

The second instance is when Morris becomes the lender of books – the librarian – to the other people in his world who were traumatized by the natural disaster. The line up as his door, and one by one, as Morris hands them a well-chosen book, color is restored to them as well. As the staff of Moonbot Studios, who produced the film have said, “Yes, books are powerful. They can possess you. Change you. Even, dare we say, give solace, escape, wisdom!” Books can bring about transformation and healing in an often dismal world where people long for just a glimpse of beauty. And libraries are the location in which those things can freely take place. Sometimes library issues can be very complex, as I am learning, but it only takes a simple story like this one to bring things back into a clear perspective: Books are important. People need them for a wholesome life. And libraries are the locations in which those truths can be put into action, because that is where the access is, freely and with limitless possibilities.

The film is available on iTunes for download, and obviously I highly recommend it.

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