An Adventure in Books

Have you seen The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore yet? What the heck is that, you ask?

This magnificent short film stands head and shoulders above its fellow Academy Award nominees for best animated short film. With no dialogue, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore provides a sweet, touching, and entertaining tribute to books. Click on the link above, and you can watch it for free! If you’ve ever gotten lost in a book, you will love this movie.

In an odd timing synchronicity, I saw this film the day after visiting Poe Elementary School here in Houston. Poe is revamping its school library and as contributors, we were invited to come for coffee and to see its progress. We were told tales of moldy books, some of which had racially insensitive content, being removed from the shelves and replaced with a wide selection of everything from Dr. Seuss to The Adventure of Hugo Cabret.

Wandering among the books, I couldn’t help but reflect back to my childhood, and how the library became my favorite place in the school. My parents, married as teenagers, didn’t have college degrees, but I remember them both sitting on the sofa in the evenings after dinner, noses buried in books. In our home, piles of books traveled from and back to the library on a routine basis. Some books were read by several household members and discussed, sort of an in-home book club. On Saturday mornings, when doing my cleaning chores, I would have the vacuum cleaner in one hand and a book in the other. The house was never clean, but by God, there were books to read! Even now, though macular degeneration has taken my father’s eyesight, he revels in audio books.

How would I have known I was a writer if I hadn’t grown up with such easy access to books?

These days, if I want to read something I download it onto my iPad, but my visit to Poe reminded me how special libraries, especially school libraries, are.  Budget cuts are making it more and more difficult to keep these libraries stocked. Poe is no exception, and they are continuing their fundraising drive, which is far from over.

I think about how different my life would have been without books and the way they showed me a bigger world. School libraries are — or can be — a great equalizer, feeding young minds hungry to learn, and potentially lifting people out of poverty. It troubles me to think that some young people will never know the joy of books reflected in The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, only because there are few books available to them. If you think this is hyperbolic rhetoric, read this. Or this. Or this.

Visiting Poe Elementary, I was reminded how far a small donation can go in an arena such as this. Many people are looking for charities where their donations won’t get lost in the shuffle of a big organization with lots of administrative fees to support the cushy lifestyles of their CEOs. Your local school library is one of those places, where you can see tangible evidence that your contributions have made a difference. If you love books, fantastic flying books or otherwise, won’t you consider sending a few dollars to your local school library? Visit one nearby, and watch your contributions work their magic. Doing so will leave a lump in your throat and a spring in your step. I guarantee it.

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