"If you have never spent whole afternoons with burning ears and rumpled hair, forgetting the world around you over a book, forgetting cold and hunger...
If you have never wept bitter tears because a wonderful story has come to an end and you must take your leave of the characters with whom you have shared so many adventures...
If such things have not been part of your own experience, you probably won't understand what Bastian did next."
For those unfamiliar with The Neverending Story in any of its forms, it centers around Bastian Balthazar Bux, a fat little boy who bullies love to pick on. One morning while escaping said bullies he wanders into Carl Conrad Coreander's bookstore and leaves with a special book covered in copper-colored silk. In reading The Neverending Story Bastian is introduced to the land of Fantastica and all its wonderous creatures. He meets Atreyo, Falkor the luck dragon, and the Childlike Empress. There are gnomes, a rock creature, and a racing snail. He learns about the Swamps of Sadness, the Lake of Tears, and the Ivory Tower. Alas, Fantastica and the Childlike Empress are dying as The Nothing floods the land. Atreyo goes on a quest to find how to cure the Childlike Empress and thereby save Fantastica. Bastian finds that he may have a role to play in saving Fantastica as well.
I fell in love with the movie The Neverending Story the first time I saw it. I must have watched a dozen times or more throughout my childhood. For some inexplicable reason I have only gotten around to reading the book just now. What a pleasure it was to revisit the land of Fantastica, Atreyu and Bastian. Reading the book brought back vivid images of the movie and how I felt watching Bastian hide away in the attic, skipping school to read his magical book. Just writing this post takes me back. I remember watching Bastian read and relating to his love of books and his ability to fall into a story so completely. I still do that.
The book is a bit different from the movie. Or more precisely, about halfway through the book is where the movie ended. I recall there being a sequel to the movie (and not liking it nearly as much as the original). Parts of the sequel come from the second half of the book.
The Neverending Story is a rich fantasy story with stories within stories. As we read The Neverending Story, so does Bastian, and so others live it. It is I suppose aimed at adolescents but touches on universal themes like sadness, loss, and how getting everything you want may not always be the best thing. It is an old-fashioned fairy tale and by that I mean bad and scary things happen before the happy ending comes.
It was such a joy to read this book. I especially love the opening pages, some of which is quoted above. I love the pictures. I love that there are 26 chapters and that the first word of each chapter starts with a different letter of the alphabet in order - from All, Because, and Cairon, to Xayide's, Yor, and Zigzagging. This might be one of my favorite books of all time, at least it is in the top 10.
I would recommend this to all readers.