iPad iBook Review: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore Reviewed by Guy Dayen
Moonbot Studios, a small outfit out of Shreveport, Louisiana, follows up their award-winning short film, "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore", with an interactive book, which is based on the animation done for the film.
The book tells the story of Morris Lessmore, who is leading an aimless life, until he is given a book by a girl who happens to be flying by on a particularly windy day. Morris' world used to be grey and drab, but the gift of this special book, and Morris' discovery of a mysterious building filled with living books, transforms the world into a fantastic whirl of color and magic. To say more would be to ruin the wonder and magic of this beautiful book.
The story of Morris, and the effect that books have on his life, is one that will appeal equally to children and adults. It is a touching and engaging modern fable; a very relevant story in a world where reading and the magic of books are retreating further away each day under the onslaught of ever-growing mass media. The simple act of reading is one that we seem to have less and less time for as our lives seem to get busier and busier. The story of Morris Lessmore, and the gentle lessons it teaches us, should serve as a reminder of the unique enjoyment that comes from reading a book, whether it is on the latest e-reader, or in the good old paper and ink format.
The artwork of the book, taken from the movie, is reminiscent of old silent films. In fact, the character of Morris has much in common with the silent film actor Buster Keaton. Morris expresses himself through his body movements and facial expressions, and not through spoken words. This allows the story to have a nice, timeless feel. You are reading it on an iPad, the latest and greatest tablet (At least, that?s how I like to think of it...), but the sensibilities of graphic design and story structure come right out of classic Hollywood films.
Most of the story is told through visuals, and through a very pleasant narrative soundtrack. The story is fairly brief, so young children will not lose interest, but it is complex enough to hold the attention of any adult reading along. In fact, it is by no means a children?s story only. This tale will appeal to everyone, adults included, especially due to the wonderful nostalgic appeal of the presentation. A book, paper or electronic, is nothing without a good story, and this is a very good story indeed. I know that word ?classic? is overused, but I do think this is a story that has staying power, one that a child reading it now will want to share when they have children of their own. Just as fairy tales live on generation after generation, I have the feeling that the story of Morris Lessmore and his love of books will be around for a long time. It?s that good!
So why not just get the movie itself? Why bother with reading the book? Well, for one thing, the story is all about the unique act of reading, so getting an actual book would seem just the thing to do, no...? Of course, I?m being facetious here. There?s much more to the app. The app version of ?The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore? lets children (And adults, too - I admit it; I love interactive books. They?re just plain fun...) get right into the world of the movie in a way that is impossible when just watching the film. Children can repair books along with Morris, work on puzzles, make Morris fly through a whirlwind of books, and many other wonderful activities. It is easy to navigate from page to page, and when there is something to do, the active elements on the page will glow briefly; it?s a subtle and elegant way to guide readers to the things they can play with on the pages.
There is a great deal of work that went into the story of Morris Lessmore. The quality of the graphic design, of the writing, of the narration, and of the animation is top-notch. The app is very polished, and plays flawlessly on the iPad. It is very reasonably priced, too. For five dollars, you will have a great book to read for yourself, or to share with a loved one in your life. And if you know someone who loves books, well, you will score major points when you introduce them to Morris Lessmore. This book gets my highest recommendation.
And you know what else ? For the two or three dollars that it costs on iTunes (depending on wether you get the regular or HD version), get the movie too. Once you read the book, you will want to see the whole story played out for you. Trust me, you?ll watch it more than once, and, if any, so will the children in your lives. Moonbot Studios did a great job with this story, and I encourage everyone to support them. They are a small independent studio, but they have very big ideas. I can?t wait to see what their next project will be.