The Neverending Story, Michael Ende

The Neverending Story is one of the few movies I have strong memories of as a kid. It’s a wonderful story about an awkward, self-conscious kid who finds his confidence through the magic of a book.

Firstly, if you’re a parent, this is a fantastic book for your children to read. I’d say age 8 is probably old enough to read it, though I don’t have kids of my own, so it’s hard for me to judge maturity by age. I think it would be a fun adventure to read together.

The story is about a little boy, Bastian, who is bullied by some kids around his town. When he is running from them before school in the opening, he takes refuge in an old book shop. Inside is a grumpy old man with a large leather-bound book. When the old man runs to answer a phone call in the other room, Bastian does something against his character and steals the book, leaving the shop before the owner returns. When Bastian gets to school, he can’t bear to go to his classes, so instead he runs up to the attic to read his new treasure.

The text is broken up by italics, where Bastian’s story is italicized and the story in Fantastica is in regular type.
The book is about a grand adventure in the land of Fantastica, which is ruled by the childlike Empress. She is deathly ill and in dire need of help, so she sends out her beloved medallion to a young boy named Atreyu, so that he may be able to find her cure. Atreyu is met with many friends and foes on his journey, and Bastian is as invested in the story as any young kid possibly could be.

Halfway through the book the tone changes entirely; it almost seemed like there were two books, the first half Atreyu’s adventure, and the second half, Bastian’s (once he is transported into Fantastica). Honestly though, Bastian’s part of the story dragged and it took me forever to finish it.

The ending, however, was very good. The adventure solved all of Bastian’s confidence problems, and mended the boy’s relationship with his father, and even made him a new friend, in the form of the book shop owner, who we find out had also travelled to Fantastica once, a long time ago.
I would call this story an epic adventure. Fantastica stretches literally as far as imagination will allow.

Ende does a fantastic job revealing the themes in this book naturally and beautifully. Using his story within a story we are able to see Basitan realize truths about himself and find his own importance in the world, which causes the reader to re-evaluate their own self-worth and confidence. This book also celebrates a child-like imagination by creating the (biggest) villain of Fantastica to symbolize the idea that lack of imagination and adventure is what brings negativity into our lives. I also think these virtures come into full fruition within the first half of the book, and that the second half could have been severely edited or left out entirely, honestly.

I like this book because it sends all the right messages without being too obvious or too ‘kiddie’. I love that over all, The Neverending Story is about how a book can change your life. I can see this book becoming beloved by a child reading it for the first time, especially one who had not yet seen the movie (which stops at the halfway point in the book).

The first half exceeded my expectations, but the second half really never seemed to end. Never End. Get it?

Emma.