Moonbot Studio’s, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce and illustrated by Joe Bluhm, is an academy award winning film short, the interactive app(s), and a book that have been out for a few years. We were able to see the book and its accompanied augmented reality app at Dust or Magic 2015 at the Highlight’s Foundation, and it was so impressive that we wanted to showcase its innovation and sheer brilliance in storytelling. The story was originally intended as a tribute to Bill Morris, a champion for children’s literature, but when Hurricane Katrina devastated the author’s home state, he witnessed the curative power of stories and their ability to transport and uplift spirits anywhere. And so The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore evolved, and with each metamorphosis and exploration with new formats, the story becomes more accessible and more enchanting. That accessibility is rarely seen in storytelling apps and draws you in through the desire to participate in the story’s unfolding. The app first came out in 2011 to wondrous reviews and awards, and Moonbot Studios soon came out with an additional augmented reality app that brings the real book to life. Let’s take a look at both the story app and the augmented reality app, so you can see which one (or both) will work within your classroom.
The story begins with Mr. Morris Lessmore sitting on his veranda, when an ugly storm appears, sweeping away all his books and even the written words from his diary too. He then begins a quest to find his lost words when wandering in the aftermath of the storm and discovers the most extraordinary building. It’s a library of living books. He loves them and soon finds that the books love him back. Here, the magic begins when Morris reaches the library. As the illustrations segue from monochromatic schemes to full-color animation, it draws the reader deeper into this magical world. Morris as a caretaker of the library shares the books with others…from the famous to the favorites to lonely little volumes…because “Everyone’s story matters”. How timeless are this message and one that will live on past our lifetimes and for generations to come? The story is simply about a man, who cares about documenting the lives and history of other’s tales. He cared for the books, and in return, the books cared for him. And in time, as Morris aged and needed to say farewell; he told his beloved books goodbye with a wish and remembrance in his heart. And is it not that - that need to keep stories alive in our hearts, that makes us all share? Whether we are in the schools, parents/grandparents or a friend, a beloved book stands the test of time, and its energy and message transcend generations. And with each passing generation, a remembrance leaves its trace and continues to the next generation. The interactive app, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, is extraordinary and a real bargain for the price. It contains interactive features on each page such as playing games - both the piano and playing with food are fun, the ability to navigate to any page in the book, or to view the animated short film. All the animated features compliment or are part of the story rather than just gratuitous hotspots. It is a masterpiece in its use of technology to its fullest capacity and I find it incredible that it has been out there for a number of years. Tip: read this several times over, before reading it to children, so you don’t start weeping at the end.
The app for story telling with augmented reality: IMAG-NO-TRON: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore brings the story to life with the Story-O-Scope of IMAG-NO-TRON. You have to love the name, and the app does have a sort of GeorgeJetson vibe to it. By interacting with the real life book, kids get to compare and contrast the wonders of the physical world using the book with the playful world of animation on the iPad. Timing, sequencing, and pacing are part of the learning tasks to the app. The app can be kind of glitchy and you are not always sure where to point the iPad, but the bottom line is – It is so fun! There are cues interspersed amongst the pages to help if you get stuck. This is a great motivator for working on bimanual and core control as well as coordination for visual motor tasks. All skills kids need to be successful learners. I love how it gets kids up and moving and gives their imaginations a run. Here are the books and various items spinning through my living room during the storm!
The apps and the physical book are highly recommended. In fact, I ran out and got Moonbot’s newest book and the app, The Numberlys too, and can’t wait to read it with my next group.