A Book about the Love of Books
Every once in awhile, the stars align and you discover a book that speaks to your soul. Whether by chance, recommendation or curiosity, you will find the book and you will know the book. The book that seems to read itself to you, without an effort on your part. The books speaks and you are the listener, the discoverer, the absorber of the story. You could read it many times through and still learn something new. You can go without reading the book for a time, revisit it and find that you still know the book, like an old friend, no awkward pauses. You can have a conversation with the book, this old, dear friend, one you can depend on when times are tough, when you are stretched too thin, when you are in a need of something more!
I have few books in my life like this. Those that keep you up till 3 A.M., “Just one more chapter.”, you say to yourself, “Just one more page.”, until you fall asleep. You wake up, blurry eyed and exhausted from the late night, the book half hanging off the side of the bed. Then you remember, “The book!” eager to read more, but life calls to you. Through the day, you are thinking of the book, trying to sneak in a page here or there. The kid’s bedtime can’t come soon enough so you can lose yourself again in this conversation, this reprieve from the sometimes mundane routine of life. You complete the book and feel a void. A feeling of a friend leaving without hardly a goodbye. The book has left you to your own devices and you are a bit lost. “You knew how this was going to end.” the books seems to say. And I do know, but all I need do is open the first page and immerse myself.
I have found such a book, a children’s book nonetheless. While at the library with my kids, in Leclaire, a small country library, built mainly for children to explore, I came across this book. I noticed it on top of the bookshelf, “New!” it said on the sticker in the corner. The illustrations were inviting, of a man with a bewildered expression on his face and flying books. The book was The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, by William Joyce. I knew we must read it, as even the title was poetic.
I read the book aloud to the kids and I found my friend, the one who spoke my words. The ending came too soon and we were reading it more and more. I returned it to the library, only to check it out again and again. We have read it so often that the kids know it is my favorite book. They appreciate this and listen to it eagerly every time. They bring it to me saying, “You love this one!” As I try not to choke up on the ending, I think, “What other book could be my favorite except a book about the love of books?”
The lessons of Lessmore are varied and have changed the more I read it. The first is a scene where a small boy becomes colorful as the book is placed into his hands. A small, sandy haired boy with a wide smile and look of wonder on his face. The potential of what could be as he discovers and pours over the book. The line of people behind him are dressed in gray, so unaware of the color their lives are about to take as they embark on a reading adventure. My life has been colored by many books. Reading The Giving Tree with my mother as a child, then Number the Stars as a fourth grader, one I can’t wait to share with my own children. Further on, The Count of Monte Cristo, Harry Potter, the poetry of William Wordsworth, the imagery master of his time. These books have colored my life, given me ideas to think about, made me dream about them as I slept, made me share with others because you just have to read this! Books can change lives. Books have changed lives! Books will continue to do so as we will pass on the love of reading.
Another section of the book of Lessmore, is his words, flying away from him in a storm. MIxed up, crumpled up, lost. Hours of work gone. No inspiration and a lost feeling replacing these words. How can I start again? What can I do return those words? Storms in my life have made me feel inadequate in writing. Lack of time to write has left me feeling rusty and unpracticed. Too many small ideas, not enough concrete visions have left me feeling like not trying. If it’s not good enough to be published, then why am I doing this? I will tell you why. Because I love it. Because the feeling of writing makes my heart soar. Because the feeling that my hand can’t keep up with my thoughts flowing onto the page is a feeling I will never forget. Because the story of my life is mine, not yours, not a publishing companys’, not a bookstore, it is mine. I will keep it and embrace it and relish in the fact that i have created it, be it good or bad, I have created something that is substantial and worthwhile. A part of me will be carried on to those who chose to read and perhaps my words will inspire or teach something that anyone can write the feelings of their soul.
My favorite line in the book is “Each book was whispering an invitation to adventure.” Because why do we read? To escape? To learn? To experience another time, another lifestyle, another person’s life? The adventure becomes your own once you turn the first page. The book breathes its words and you answer by reading. Many times as a child, I would check out ten books from the library and read them all in a day. I could be transported to the world of The Boxcar Children, or The Babysitters Club, or Ramona and Beezus. No book was left untouched. The adventure continuously called to me and I willingly answered.
The main character, Morris Lessmore, cares for the books. He repairs old books, bringing new life to them. He folds up the dog eared corners of pages, he tapes and glues bindings to keep the pages together. He spends his life of service among his friends, these books who are so readily available to him. However, at the end of the night, when all is quiet and still, he writes his own story. He reviews his own life and puts it to paper. When he has finished his time among the books, he leaves his story behind. A little girl finds it and his story becomes her newest adventure. And with his simple act of writing, he has passed on a book, a legacy that could change the world or a solitary life. And the love of books reaches out to the next generation. The idea that IDEAS are important, new and old, that imagination matters, that thoughts can be shared and revisited and expanded simply by writing them down. Because as Mr. Morris Lessmore says, “Everyone’s story matters.” and they truly do.