Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Neverending Story by Michael Ende

The first thing I have to say about this book is that it is absolutely beautiful. The cover is fantastically gorgeous, but the real visual treat comes when you open the book. Every letter in the book is either maroon or a leafy green color: when the story starts, maroon is for when the main character, Bastian, is in his own world, and the green is for the text of the book he is reading or for when he is in Fantastica. Aside from that, the first character of each chapter is beautifully illuminated in maroon and green, and I noticed after finishing the book that there are twenty-six chapters, and if you put all the first letters together in order, you get the alphabet. (I wonder if it was difficult for Mr. Ende to come up with the first sentences for the last few chapters.)

Aside from the physical book itself, The Neverending Story is a book about a young boy named Bastian Balthazar Bux who is fat, pale, and not very good at anything except for loving books and telling stories, talents not very well valued by his classmates. One day when running away from bullies before school, Bastian dashes into the bookshop of Carl Conrad Coreander, who is reading a book called The Neverending Story. Bastian is so intrigued by this book that when the telephone rings and Mr. Coreander answers it, he decides that he must have the book, takes it, and leaves the bookshop. Overcome with shame, Bastian decides that he could neither go home and have his father know that he had skipped school and taken something that wasn't his, nor could he go to school and suffer the usual torture. Instead, he goes up to the school attic, where he sits and begins to read The Neverending Story. He stays all day, and eventually he begins to be drawn deeper into the aptly named world of Fantastica, until he is no longer reading the story, but is part of the story. Only then does the real adventure begin, as Bastian meets the Childlike Empress, whom only he can save; befriends a green-skinned boy and an opalescent luckdragon; and seeks out Uyulala. But the longer Bastian stays in Fantastica, the more he forgets about the life he left behind.

This book is absolutely magical. If you ever enjoyed Narnia, Edward Eager's books, or The Phantom Tollbooth, then get your hands on a copy of The Neverending Story as soon as possible--just don't steal it. I did sort of want to smack Bastian over the head about two-thirds of the way through the book, but it all turned out very well. One of my favorite things about the writing style in this book is how Mr. Ende often gives the reader a little hint of things to come, but then says, "But that's another story and shall be told another time." I suppose some people might think that's sort of annoying, but I like it. It's like there's not just the one story about Fantastica, but many; and they're all hiding somewhere you can't find them, just waiting to be found and written down.

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