7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #290: Featuring William Joyce

h1 July 29th, 2012 by jules

“Morris wondered if his book could fly. But it couldn’t. It would only fall to the ground with a depressing thud. The flying lady knew Morris simply needed a good story,
so she sent him her favorite. The book was an amiable fellow,
and urged Morris to follow him.”

(Click to see entire spread)

Here’s a picture book that will most likely not need any help whatsoever getting attention. It’s a book that follows an award-winning animated short film, and I don’t even tend to post about books that are spin-offs of movies, but I like this book. It also made a giant lump form in my throat when I shared it with my own daughters (the film and the book), and then it made me cry my fool head off, despite my best intentions (I don’t think there’s the tiniest thing wrong with crying, but GOD how I hate to do it in front of other people), while they just looked at me funny. But more on that in a minute.

Many of you are familiar, I’m sure, with the short film from William Joyce and Moonbot Studios, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, the 2012 Academy Award winner for Best Animated Short Film. Yep, the book version is out now from Atheneum Books (released in June). Also, I know a book about the love of books came out after the film and the iPad app, but carry on we will. I think this picture book adaptation is lovely.

I really don’t even want to tell you all about the plot, just in case you haven’t experienced the film or book for yourself. I’ll say this: It’s about a man—Morris Lessmore—who loves words and stories and books. In fact, he jots down his life—“his joys and sorrows”—into a book of his own. One day, his life is literally scattered to the winds. (Moonbot Studios will tell you: “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.”)

He wanders. He sees a woman being lifted in the air by balloons and her own favorite book. He ends up in “an extraordinary building where many books apparently ‘nested.'”

It’s here he begins his life amongst books. “Sometimes Morris would become lost in a book and scarcely emerge for days.” (Many of us know what this is like.)

Morris, most importantly, shares his books with others. And of course time passes. And … well, here’s where I refuse to give away the ending, even if an illustration below hints at it.

Needless to say, this is about more than merely books. This is, at its core, a story about life and loss. And connection. (Connection is key. Stories won’t be remembered, if we book-lovers don’t share them.) Remember the part where I cried on my children? They were moved by the tale, I think, but not as much as their grown-up mama was. In other words, this arguably appeals more to adults, those of us possessing more years on us and, therefore, more accumulated loss.

But, by all means, share it with the short humans in your life anyway. It’s beautifully designed and illustrated (multimedia illustrations) with a clever use of color and a moving use of light. Kirkus has already given this one a starred review: “The unifying metaphor of life as story is a powerful one,” the review states, “as is the theme of the transformative power of books. The emphasis on connecting readers and books and the care of books pays homage to librarianship. Rich in allusions…and brilliant in depicting the passage of time (images conflate times of day, seasons and years), Joyce’s work will inspire contemplation of the power of the book in its many forms.”

I highly recommend finding a copy of the book to take in with your own eyes. For now, I’ll let the art speak for itself here. Enjoy.

(But quickly: While we’re on the subject of William Joyce, my eight-year-old cannot get enough of this series, The Guardians of Childhood. Anyone else read them?)

“He didn’t know what to do or which way to go. So he began to wander. And wander.”
(Click to enlarge)

“Then a happy bit of happenstance came his way. Rather than looking down, as had become his habit, Morris Lessmore looked up. Drifting through the sky above him, Morris saw a lovely lady. She was being pulled along
by a festive squadron of flying books.”

(Click to enlarge)

(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)

(Click either image to see spread in its entirety)

THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE. Copyright © 2012 by William Joyce and Moonbot Studios LA, LLC. Published by Atheneum, New York. All illustrations reproduced with permission of the publisher.

* * * * * * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) I saw and enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom, and I bet you Suzy Bishop, who likes stories with magical powers in them, grows up to be a YA author.

p.s. Here is what Suzy’s reading:

2) I made a countdown-to-Rufus-at-the-Ryman image. I made it tiny, ’cause I’m sure I’m annoying everyone, goin’ on about Rufus all the time.

(That’s the number of days, hours, minutes, and seconds till the show in October, if it’s too tiny for you to read.)

3) My friend with great taste recommended I read this book, pictured here, and I found a copy the next day at a local bookstore. It is, indeed, rather unputdownable, and it makes me grateful for things like … well, gravity.

4) This news (which I briefly mentioned last week) is exciting to me: I was asked to teach a grad course in The University of Tennessee’s School of Information Sciences (my alma mater), a course ALL ABOUT PICTURE BOOKS. I am yelling this with straight-up uncurbed enthusiasm. In fact, I took this same wonderful course myself when I was a grad student years ago. UT is in Knoxville, but the course is taught virtually, so I can do it here from middle Tennessee. It will be next summer. I am crazy excited about this.

5) I was also asked if I’d like to introduce musician and author Colin Meloy at a talk here in Nashville in October. I am fairly certain his talented illustrator wife, Carson Ellis (who visited 7-Imp here last year), will also be speaking. I hope so. I’ll be moderating their panel discussion, I believe. I’m really looking forward to that (and have a galley of his next book to read).

6) I’m not a big-jewelry person (or a big Jewelry Person), by any means. But I bought earrings the other night, just to see if the holes in my ears had grown back. They had not. The earrings have foxes on them. The foxes make me think of good children’s lit stories and fables, as well as Neko Case.

Also, this reminds me, as I’m typing, that my dear, late brother, who was my best friend, used to call me “Jewelry,” instead of “Julie.” And it always used to make me laugh.

7) Last but not least: It’s very un-kick-like that astronaut Sally Ride died this week, but what is wonderful is this illustrated tribute (which the publisher notes was impromptu) from graphic designer and illustrator Micah Player. (This entertaining book, I must add, was his debut picture book in April of this year, one my own daughters very much liked. This little girl here below, paying tribute to Sally, is Lately, Lily.)

What are YOUR kicks this week? Also, do you go berserk from time to time, as evidently Suzy Bishop does? Well, who doesn’t?

21 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #290: Featuring William Joyce”

  1. Now that’s an exciting bunch of kicks!

    My favorite, of course, is the class you will be teaching. Those lucky, lucky kids!

    1. Working my way through Meg Medina’s Girls of Summer 2012 list and am so impressed. My latest read was the first graphic novel I have ever liked (no judgements please!) called Dark Room: A Memoir in Black and White by Lila Quintero Weaver.
    2. A super productive writing day while my dog was at the groomer. You don’t realize how much the four legged child interrupts until she’s gone.
    3. My oldest finally saying, “I want something new to read.” She has been a chronic re-reader and it’s been driving me nuts.
    4. A fun bookclub with friends.
    5. A close friend recovering well from surgery.
    6. Homemade ice cream.
    7. Rain that I usually hate but boy were our flowers happy.

  2. I am off to the magical town of Salem, Massachusetts to day to meet a new baby, so I am just popping in before we leave (before breakfast).
    I remember when I first saw the film that I wish it was a book. Thanks for sharing.

    Congratulations Jules! don’t you just love those circle of life moments. I’m glad those earings are giving you those good feelings and memories. Foxes also remind me of Wes Anderson.

    Stacey- What flavor ice cream? My flowers are happy too.


    1. The Olympics inspired swimming and biking.

    2. Seeing Moonrise Kingdom last night with my daughter (10 yr. old). She didn’t understand it but she liked it and wants to read all of those books 🙂

    3. After a cruddy day at work I went to the library fundraiser where one of my paintings was being raffled off. Everyone was so nice including the guest speaker, Mary Higgins Clark.

    4. I have been breaking in my Tumblr account. http://atlanticmo.tumblr.com/post/28028608524/2

    5. Kids had a great time at the Parks and Rec. Camp.

    6. Had a full day in the studio for the first time in weeks.

    7. Love

    Happy Week!

  3. Congrats on the teaching gig…that is awesome! Just a reminder that we have to have a visit soon, because you know what my kick is! Love ya, lady!

  4. You are just too cute with your wee tiny RW countdown thingie.

    BIG CONGRATS on the teaching gig and being asked to introduce Colin and all.

    I just purchased the Morris Lessmore book. Been in love with Joyce’s work a long time.

    A few kicks:

    Air conditioning.

    Hearing Frances Park and Ginger Park talk about their delicious memoir, Chocolate Chocolate, at the library. Of course they brought samples. Homemade truffles, yum!

    Getting ready for my brother’s visit next week. This involves the baking of cookies and the making of salads :).

    Making two of Julia Child’s recipes in honor of her birthday August 15th. Excited about an entire JC week at Alphabet Soup!

    Five deer in the back yard yesterday. All with antlers!

    Fuzzy the Fox regularly waits by the kitchen door for his dinner every night. BTW, he loves that you got fox earrings. 🙂

    Finally cleaned our windows. All 54 of them.

    Happy Almost August. Stay cool!

  5. Great post, Jules! Love everyone’s kicks. And William Joyce is one of my favorites by far!

    Here’s a poem from my newest collection (still seeking a publisher):

    Bridge Troll
    By Steven Withrow

    I’m crass. I’m cross.
    Don’t sass me, kid.
    You won’t pass me by
    like those billy goats did.

    I’m stubborn. I’m stern.
    Best turn yourself around,
    or you’ll learn a thing or two
    when I put you underground.

    I’m champ. I’m cheap.
    And I keeps what I owns.
    Now run away, kid,
    or I’ll gobble your bones!

    copyright 2012 by Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

  6. I love William Joyce. This is a quick fly-by as am with my college friends at the coast. There are nine of us w/ lots of talking and laughing.
    Congrats, Jules on teaching next summer. Wish I could take the class.
    Such great kicks today. My seven kicks are rolled into one be kick of the college girls weekend AKA Camp Odell.
    Have a great week.

  7. Stacey: KICK #3! That is great. That made me smile. Also, I’ll have to find and read Dark Room if you recommend it. Haven’t heard of it. Good news about your friend, and I hope you all continue to get rain. Send some our way.

    Moira: NEW BABY! Smell that baby neck. I just realized I keep dreaming about babies. What the what? … And, yes, foxes are so Dahl and Wes Anderson (good heavens, both that book and movie are so funny) … that library fundraiser sounds lovely, and I saw your FB pic of you and Ms. Clark. Here’s wishing you more full days in the studio …

    Tracy: Just emailed you!

    Jama, what yummy kicks. Have fun with your brother! And I am looking forward to your Julia Child week. Also, I’m glad Fuzzy approves of my earrings. I should take a picture of them. Speaking of happy-almost-August, can you believe the girls start school next week? Hubba wha?

    Steven: Ooh, I like that one!

    Jone, college friends at the coast sounds really wonderful. Have fun!

  8. Good morning, Imps!

    I haven’t seen nor read The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, so thanks for the introduction. I especially like the flying books image.

    Jules: Congrats again! Keep shouting and sharing your enthusiasm. 🙂 Thanks for sharing that memory. I also like that illustration of Ride, Sally, Ride.

    Stacey: Three cheers for a productive writing day! Hope the pup enjoys her new look. Sending strength to your friend. Hello to the flowers.

    Moira: Have a safe and fun trip! May next week treat you better at work.

    Jama: Nice title, Chocolate Chocolate. Yum. Hi to Fuzzy the Fox!

    Steven: Good luck with your publisher search!

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Opening weekend
    2) Conversations
    3) Being considered
    4) Trying even harder
    5) Letting things be
    6) One Week was just on TV again. Such a good movie.
    7) Seeing things for what they really are

  9. Hello, Kickers! (Who are also — in the 7-Imp sense of kick — almost certainly Kickees, too.)

    I loved the Morris Lessmore film and the book looks pretty great, too. The illustrations can be deceptive, in a fun way, hiding little details that made me want to clap. Like the pages-littered landscape of spilled houses, including one completely upside-down one which has somehow managed to get a utility pole shoved in, at an angle, through a second-floor window.

    Also, I went to the Web site for that Guardians series, Jules, and really liked the “How to Draw a Moonbot” video. The ridiculously complicated instructions reminded me of how much fun it was as a kid to get similar lessons and just decide to shuck the whole follow-the-instructions thing and just DO IT.

    Note to self: add Moonrise Kingdom to the list of things not to forget. (Wes Anderson is some kind of genius, isn’t he?!?)

    …and ditto The Age of Miracles.

    (Although I sometimes do want to summon every wonderful writer in the world into a giant auditorium. When we lower the lights and the noise level finally drops, I would walk onto the stage, go to the microphone, look around at all their expectant faces, smile benignly, nod to the ones I know, lean into the microphone and then shriek, SLOW DOWN, FOR THE SAKE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY.)

    Stacey, loved that “something new to read” kick! (May you never reach the point where you’re thinking Please please please RE-read something for a change. :))

    Moira: a little creepy, actually, that you’re headed to a town notorious for its witchy history to meet a new baby. I really don’t want to know the baby’s mother’s name.

    I laughed, jama, to think that you actually now know exactly how many windows you have. By the time I got to #54 myself, I’d have happily settled for 53, or even 40. 27. Whatever.

    Coincidentally, Steven, I watched a Norwegian film yesterday about a professional troll hunter. You poem belongs on a plaque in the nursery in that guy’s house.

    Have fun on the weekend, Jone!

    Quick kicks here:

    1. A Korean film we watched last night, Castaway on the Moon. Very funny and oddly moving.
    2. Work continues to be sometimes exasperatingly but generally satisfyingly busy.
    3. A teensy-tiny nibble — a niblet, in truth — of interest from an agent this week. Not counting any chickens, but I’ve asked them to cross their scrawny little bird’s-toes for me.
    4. My watch battery died Friday night. Will replace it soon, but in the meantime am enjoying the odd sense of dislocation which comes from not always knowing what time it is.
    5. Indulged in a single slice of pizza the other day from a REAL pizza place — an independent, not a chain — and thought I’d pass out from bliss.
    6. This great blog post, in which the author’s 6-year-old guesses the plots of classic novels based on just their covers.
    7. I dislike promo’ing my own blog elsewhere, especially among friends, but I have to say I really, really like yesterday’s post.

    Have a lovely week, all!

  10. Little Willow: that you can put kicks #4 and 5 in the same list speaks VOLUMES for your ability to face life. Good for you!

  11. P.S. Jules, I forgot to compliment you on the, well, I guess it was some kind of pun. In your kick about Age of Miracles, you said it was unputdownable… and renewed your appreciation of gravity. Ha! No idea if it was intentional, but if not it was a deft accident. 🙂

  12. OMG i cannot wait to see this book! Great art! Also thanks for #1 and #3… have to check ’em both out. And congrats again on the teaching gig;)
    my kicks
    1) a new chair for my drawing table! After more than 20 years i’ve got a new chair. Hard to believe i’ve had the same one since high school… now my butt feels like its on clouds
    2) nice little illo job came in this week that i wasn’t expecting
    3) a whole sunday afternoon to roam the internet (when i should have been doing something productive surely)
    4) last fun weekend at pool before school starts this week
    5) some inspiration for an SCBWI intensive workshop i’ve been trying to work on
    6) checking out a new slew of books from library for both work reading and fun reading, including the new Lisa Jewell book, which, if i was interested in grown-up books, i would want to write like her.
    7) lemonade, fried chicken, and chocolate

    have a good week everyone!

  13. I haven’t seen the film, but the featured book looks fantastic!

    My kicks:

    1. Chook-proof cage for the veggie garden built…
    2. …and seeds planted! This has taken far longer than I thought it would!
    3. Yummy cakes made recently include a strawberry mousse cake to take advantage of the strawberries now in season. Not only did it taste nice the mousse stayed in shape and didn’t gloop all over the place
    4. All my family around me for a fun birthday dinner out our place
    5. And then another birthday dinner out at a Japanese restaurant meant lots of yummy little dishes
    6. A circus in the local park – I haven’t been, but the view from my hill of the large striped tent cheers me up each morning
    7. So many chores done on Friday, including booking a termite checker (eek, hopefully I include termite free house in my kicks in a couple of weeks) and getting some jeans taken up.

    And I should add 8. having all of these lovely lists to come back and read this afternoon

  14. I would enjoy playing with an iPad just to be able to explore the Flying Books app. (Oh, and the Elements and Solar System apps based on the books published by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers….) I just requested the Guardians of Childhood series from the library. By the way, I knew that your brother’s memorial was this month, but for some reason, I always think of it toward the end of the month. Belatedly, I acknowledge the anniversary.

    1. I ran around Greenlake twice today, i.e. 6 miles. I can now establish with a straight face that I can run a 10 minute mile. I am proud of myself. Five years ago, I could not have imagined running ONE mile.

    2. I’ve got my recipe for Pimm’s Cups down pat. For curious folks, I’ll share it here:

    1.5 oz. Pimm’s No. 1
    .5 oz Hendrick’s gin (cucumber and rose petal imbued)
    Shake this mixture with ice-cubes until chilled
    In the desired drinking glass, muddle:
    2 strawberries, 1 wedge of orange, 1 spear of cucumber, fresh mint leaves
    Pour in the Pimm’s/gin mix, and add 2 oz. ginger beer
    Garnish: salted cucumber wheel, orange or lemon curly twist, mint sprig, and (if you have it) some bright blue borage flowers

    You want more kicks after those?! Here you go:
    3. Add friends
    4. Add sunshine
    5. Add good music
    6. Add snacks
    7. Add a glass of water (because a good bartender supplies you with plenty of water)

    I read all of the people’s kicks weekly, but may I just say, Little Willow, I am so thrilled to read about your continued dedication to your craft, especially when the world of acting requires so much fortitude and self-confidence. I am cheering you on, always.

    And yes, I am cheering everyone else on, too. JES, Emmaco, and all the other regulars. You rock. Note the 1980s hand-gesture when I say that.

  15. JES: That would be a lovely writer gathering. Fingers crossed for you! Thanks for the kind words.

    Mary: Congrats on the unexpected job! Yay for the new chair and new books as well.

    emmaco: Strawberries are delicious. Have Frog & Toad visited your garden yet? “Seeds! Start growing!”

    Farida: Congrats on the running! Wowza for the time and the distance. Thank you for the support. That’s really kind of you to say. 🙂

  16. Little Willow: I think you’ll love the Morris Lessmore short film (and book). And I agree with what both JES and Farida said. You amaze me. Every week. Every day. (And I’ve never seen that movie, so thanks for the tip.)

    John, both your inner kid AND your grown-up self would probably really enjoy Joyce’s Guardian series. … Also, one of the best things about you is that only YOU would watch a Norwegian film about a professional troll hunter. I mean, I’d love to see that, too, but I can count on you to have seen it first and to recommend it. … CONGRATULATIONS on kick #3! And kick #4 is creepily reminiscent of the book I’m reading (and, no, I didn’t intend the “unputdownable” and gravity comment — how funny). I saw that strollerderby post a while back and LOVE it, esp. The Catcher in the Rye one. And thanks for the blog-post link, which I’ll curl up and read later, as much as one can curl up with a laptop.

    Mary: Congrats on the new chair, and I love that it feels like your butt is on pillows. Congrats on the new illustration job!

    Emmaco: You ate well this week. Happy birthday again! Also, I wish I lived in the kind of place where a circus would set up shop close to me.

    Farida, I’m so proud of your kick #1! I also add the 1980s’ hand gesture for you here.

  17. As much as I love the look of this book – I want to shout out a huge celebrational shout for Jules teaching next summer! Fantastic. And I echo those who wish they could attend it. Just keep celebrating, Jules, as loudly as you want!

    I am so glad you shared this amazing looking book, Jules. I had totally forgotten about the film. Now I am going to get both and enjoy.

    Amazing kicks this week – what a great week of living.

    Steven – thanks for another amazing poem. WHAT is wrong with every publisher so far who hasn’t snapped up your poems??

    My kicks:
    1. lovely visit with my parents in a charming small town in Oregon

    2. numerous visits to the local YUMMY ice cream store – best flavor this summer – maple walnut.

    3. excellent day of shopping at one of the best used-clothing stores in the US

    4. sweet visit with my aunt and cousin today

    5. watching my little go off with his Grampa and daddy to bury a squirrel we found on the side of the road during a walk. Then he made a headstone and gave the squirrel a name. Then he came home again from the grave to get flowers to lay there. Tomorrow we are going to go there to sing and say good bye.

    After that – we are grieving. My parents next door neighbor – a gentle, sweet woman in her late 30s dropped dead on her front steps of a heart attack late this afternoon. We have spent the evening trying to wrap our minds, hearts and souls around this incomprehensible tragedy, searching for gratitude for life – the good in hers and in ours. Her husband, Dave, needs every positive, loving thought from every corner of our world to make it through. If you have a moment send out a thought or prayer to/for him.

    Meet you all back here next week!

  18. Only you, emmaco, could have featured a kicks list starting with the words “chook-proof.” As usual, I knew I was in your quadrant of the world long before I saw your name!

    And Jules, the film is in fact called Trollhunter. It’s on Netflix streaming, and it’s one of those “Blair-Witch”-style would-be-documentaries — “This film has been edited down from hours of footage,” like that. It’s not “Blair Witch”-scary, though. (Er, well, I didn’t think so!)

  19. Allison: How horrifying about your parents’ neighbor. So sad. Glad you got to see your family, though. And I don’t think I’ve ever had maple walnut ice cream, but I’d like to fix that.

    John, hmm … might have to look for that one. (And excellent observation about Emmaco!)

  20. I’m sorry about your neighbour, Allison.

    Don’t you have circuses in the US, Jules?!

    Farida, I agree that LW’s dedication to her work is cheering every week!

  21. Emmaco: Yes, but what I meant specifically is that one would never set up camp so that I could see it from my window.

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