Tuesday, February 7, 2012

How To Live Forever:

"In a quiet street of tall trees
there is a library with a thousand rooms...
When the library is closed and the night watchman has
fallen asleep in his big armchair,
the shelves come to life."
~ Colin Thompson, How To Live Forever.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
Colin Thompson is a master of his genre. His illustrations, so vividly soaked in every color imaginable, his stories mangled with a uniqueness so potent I hardly have words to describe it. I was fully contempt staring at this book for a good three solid minutes - after reading it. Every page held secrets, every book he drew whispered in its vibrance. For I am a large fan of the weirdly grotesque, and Colin Thompson delivered! Not only did I re-read the book twice more after the first reading because I was so transfixed by its eccentric nature, but I was elated that his book How To Live Forever was hauntingly unfamiliar. I'd never read a children's book with a plot such as his before and I absolutely love when I am surprised by something new.
The books are alive their whisper when the night guard sleeps. The largest library in the world holds every book in the world and they're ready to start talking. When the doors close, sealing the last remaining night guard in for his graveyard shift, when the lights dim, when the silence echos off the exquisite grand moldings of this outlandish library cuts through the air just right you can hear it. The shifts as the books come alive, the music wafting from a Beethoven's concerto pamphlet, stairs connect every shelf, and a very new sort of mystic light comes over the library. The stories of the books play out in windowed bliss behind the books, and its characters come out to play; if only for a little while.
It was on a normal average day when a boy chased his cat who chased a mouse into a crack near a filling cabinet. The boy resided in a cookbook with a strangely always serious sister and his parents, the boy that night found a card. This card would teach him the very value of life and spontaneously make him make a choice that effects his livelihood.
A book was missing. That is what the card lead Brian to find out, when he followed its index number to the spot, on the shelf, in the designated area the book was to be. But the book was gone, a thick layer of dust marking its spot and illustrating just how long the book had been missing for. How To Live Forever would never be read by tourists with polkadot fanny packs, bystanders would not gaze at it in contemplation and then replace it back on the shelf,  scholars would not use it for knowledge, the book was gone and nobody had even noticed.
Well that settled it then! Brian went back to his cookbook in the Q section and forgot all about the book, right? Wrong. Who would do that? Especially when the book had such a title. Brian sets out on a grand adventure, asking every one if they'd seen the book, checking every shelf, vigorously and then later dubiously skimming through every one of the thousands of rooms, holding Cowboy novels of Butch Cassidy, memoirs of peoples lives, through the worn spines of the classics and what have you.
Peter then comes across four old men, each four standing on one leg, each as straight and solid as statues, only three awake.  These men couldn't possibly know of the book! But they did, and Peter before he knew what he was getting himself into followed one old man through a Chinese garden that took his breathe away and to a pale small child, his body as young as Peter, his wistful child's soul long lost through the bitter taste of the livelihood he's lead. This boy had read the book, this boy had became immortal, he had grown old inside while his loved ones grown old on the outside.
"To live forever is to not live at all." so says the Ancient Child to Peter. Peter walked through the garden taking in the Ancient Child's words, of his sorrow and while sitting on the bank of the river Peter had finally made up his mind. He wouldn't read the book.
I had promised my mother's kindergarten class that I would read them a book because of how they did on there Spanish test with me, this was the chosen book. Read as they laid down for there afternoon nap they were transfixed by the colors of the illustrations and when the story was finished and one student only remained awake he proclaimed 'That was a good book Miss Anna, I really liked that book.'


  1. Anna, Nice review, and another great blog! I'm following this one, too. I'm also going to post it as a link on my blog, http://thedelivererssharkeyandthejewel.blogspot.com. Perhaps you'd like to review my book? I can get you and pdf copy to check out.

    1. I won't lie I'm preferable to the real book itself, and I do not have a kindle, but I have Adobe Digital Editions on my computer so which ever way works for you is perfectly fine by me. I checked out your blog and I really like it, I feel like that cat a lot too. :)

  2. Absolutely! I'm really humbled that you would consider me to review it.

  3. Hi Anna,

    I popped over from Barbara's blog (March House) and I really like the sound of this book you've shared. I'll put it on my to-read list. Thanks!


    1. Thanks, it really was such a fantastic read. It's a children's book I came across just recently; I volunteer at my mom's preschool, teaching her kindergarten class Spanish; last week they had a test and most of them did really well so I needed to find a book to read to them as a treat and this is the one I picked. After tomorrow I will edit this post adding with it what they thought of the book.

  4. beautiful review! really really good :)

    i ADORE colin thompson, i have only read how to live forever and pepper dreams though. but both of them i really loved.
    this book was indeed quite haunting, and i'm glad you really liked it.
    he is a really awesome illustrator too!

  5. I loved his illustrations. It's funny I'd just come across him by chance and I'm so glad I did. I love quirky weird stuff, stuff that you wouldn't expect to work but in the end ties the whole project together.

  6. Excellent, intriguing review! It seems I'll be glad to use your services in the future for some of my future works, if you don't mind?
    Your review reminds me of a favourite quote of mine: The best books for kids are those which could be read by adults too... And which combine genres, don't you think? A book could be a fantasy, romance, thriller story, drama, philosphical work at the same time? This one looks like one of these which combine genres in the best way? I would say many books’ stories deserve to be amongst those that combine genres. For example in The Lord Of The Rings, along with the many battles, fierce creatures and glorious sights, there are a lot of philosophy, drama and problems that will probably be always actual in our history. There is much of philosophy too and a lot of the criminal genre along with the amazing sport of the wizards and all the breath-taking events in the books about Harry Potter. No one can deny there’s a lot of romance in Twilight series, along with all the nasty or kind-hearted vampires. Many of Terry Pratchett’s books are a perfect combination of humor, philosophy, fantasy and sci-fi. I guess there are a lot of other books that “follow” the same rule?
    All these I mentioned are well-known bestsellers all over the world. I guess one of the main reasons for that is exactly the combining of genres. Which “provides” not only the excitement of the fantasy, sci-fy worlds, but also the wisdom , quotes and seriousness of the modern fiction, drama, or philosophical works.
    I would also claim all these books follow Buddhists’ quotes that the middle way is the best. There is balance between genres in many of them, balance which even Buddha himself would appreciate. Well, many people would say almost all books (especially fantasy and sci-fi works) include more than one genre. When I had a “closer look” at my stories, I realized too that involuntarily I did a good job many times combining fantasy and sci-fi with romance, drama, philosophy, suspense, even humor or interesting facts about animals, plants, space (i. e. some science). I guess everyone know what a great influence books could have on our minds, behavior, way of life, etc. (just for example, one of the main reasons why the ozone layer is still whole was Flesh, a small book of about 180 pages). That’s why I guess every author must combine genres to create better stories?
    Keep the good work going! Wish you all the best in the future too! Let the wonderful noise of the sea always sounds in your ears! (a greeting of my water dragons' hunters).

    1. I would love to read and review any books you send me.
      I never really thought about combined genre much before but now that you point it out; it seems ironic how I have never seen it. I try, when I read a book, to find some part of the author in it, because as I know from my writings I cannot help but see where a little part of me lies among the fiction. Now I will have to start looking, for the underlying messages of books, or the mismatched genres thrown together and the compare them to a book that supports just a single genre.


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