Sometimes when I squee about a book, I want to jump up and down and yell and breathlessly tell you how amazing I thought something was. This is the same level of appreciation, but the opposite reaction: this book (and the accompanying film) knocked my heart out of my chest, made me tear up, and made me want to grab anyone who doesn’t understand how avid readers feel about books and make them watch it until they Get It.
Summary: Morris Lessmore finds himself blown away and rendered colorless by a storm, and through books finds purpose, healing, and the route to his own story. The description reads, “Inspired, in equal measures, by Hurricane Katrina, Buster Keaton, The Wizard of Oz, and a love for books, “Morris Lessmore” is a story of people who devote their lives to books and books who return the favor. Morris Lessmore is a poignant, humorous allegory about the curative powers of story.” In the book, the words of Morris’ life are blown off the page and his life becomes a wordless grief after the storm, until he finds new words in books and in his own narrative.
The story was written by William Joyce, who is a celebrated author and illustrator. He is probably best known for his series of children’s books based on the character Rolie Polie Olie. I was unfamiliar with him until I heard about this app.
The app has received numerous accolades, and Apple is pimping the ever living hell out of it, but every single piece of praise is so very deserved. Even thinking about reading this book with my children this evening, my eyes are stinging, and I have that open-mouthed stuttering reaction trying to articulate how amazing this story is, and how touching, beautiful, powerful, and true it is.
The iPad app is an interactive digital reading experience with a number of customizable options. You can have the narrator read, or you can read aloud. You can turn the sound effects and the music off or on. Each page has different pieces to explore and touch, and each interaction reveals another layer to the story, adds meaning to what has happened or is about to happen, and piece by piece assembles a complicated and amazing story that becomes more and more with each effort to think or touch it.
As an interactive digital book, I can’t say enough about the different methods through which readers are invited to read, touch, affect and create within this book. There’s music, puzzles, animations and explorations – and that description sounds too flat compared to the reaction I and my sons had as we read it. They were laughing and exploring, listening to me read the words (you can turn the voiceover off very easily) and touching the screen to see what they could do next. At the end they were awed and curious, asking me questions and wanting to see it again. We cared about Morris Lessmore, we cared about his books, and we cared about what the books could do.
As a story, it is one of the best explanations of the power of books and reading to heal, connect, and restore people. One of things I most appreciate about talking to other romance readers is the idea that we may have nothing in common except a book we loved, but because of that book we have plenty to talk about, because our common experience of reading and loving the book may mean we had an emotion in common, a reaction to the story, the characters, and the text that connects us. The power of common emotion, not just empathy but knowing that you feel the same way as someone else at a moment in time, is immeasurable, and avid readers, particularly of fiction, have probably encountered that more often that not. I know I have.
This story creates a complex emotional reaction. It’s hopeful and sad, optimistic and grim, and a truly beautiful experience start to finish.
I am still having trouble articulating how powerful I found this story, both in the iPad app and through the movie that came first. It was so amazing, I want to share it. Leave me a comment with the book that moved you the most emotionally (you don’t have to share why if you don’t want to) and I’ll pick two winners and gift them a copy of the iPad app. The app is compatible with iPad only and requires iOS 4.2 or later.
Note: I fully realize that not everyone has an iPad. I wish there were a way for more people to experience the book, though you can purchase the film and watch it on iTunes. The film and the book are equally powerful, and compliment one another.
I am hoping there are no geographic restrictions, but I am having a hard time verifying that question. Standard disclaimers apply: I’m not being compensated for this giveaway. Void where prohibited. It’ll probably make you cry. That’s ok, I cried, too.
I’m including the trailer here so you can get a sense of what the book looks like, and what it does. It is truly, without exception, a feast for the eyes, the hands, the brain, and the heart.
It is, in every possible way, storytelling art.
You can learn more about the story and the effort that went into its creation at Morris Lessmore.com. The app is available through the iTunes store and is compatible with iPad devices running iOS 4.2 or later. You can learn more about the film at the Morris Lessmore site, and at the Moonbot Studios site.