Written by Marianna Mayer, Illustrated by Mercer Mayer
Parents Magazine Press, 1971
Last summer I discovered an old barn. It was full of great things.
The plot in a nutshell: An imaginative boy builds a flying machine.
The boy gets the idea to build a flying machine with all the junk in the barn. He works on it all day. At night, he dreams about the machine and all the things he can do with it. He dreams about delivering mail, saving lost boats, helping mountain climbers and tired birds, and doing amazing aerial stunts. The next day, he goes back to the barn, finishes his machine and gives it a coat of red paint. But as he’s pulling it out of the barn, it falls apart. As he’s walking away from the barn, he thinks that tomorrow, he will build a rowboat.
This wonderful book was a collaboration between the husband and wife team of Mercer and Marianna Mayer, using her story and his artwork. The story is a really great testament to the power of imagination and dreaming big, with the main character’s head filled with big ideas of what he will do with the machine he’s building. Some of his ideas are pretty funny, such as carrying mountain climbers to the top of the mountain so they don’t have to work so hard. The last part of his dream shows him standing by a mountain of medals and trophies. He clearly imagines himself as an overwhelming success.
The illustrations are from Mercer Mayer, whose artwork takes me instantly back to my childhood, since I had several of his books when I was younger. In the artwork, our boy is joined by a cardinal and little dog in both his dreams and his real life. A quick peek at online reviews tells me that some people see the ending as negative, since they see it as the boy giving up on the flying machine after his failure and moving on to the next thing. I disagree with this and feel, instead, that the machine has given him everything he wanted from it, so he’s ready to take on the next big adventure. I think it’s a great source of encouragement and positivity.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that sometimes having a good imagination is all the adventure you really need.