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How To Live Forever (Red Fox picture books) ISBN: 9780099461814
Thompson, Colin
Published by Red Fox, 1998
The title of this very sophisticated and beautiful picture book could well be 'Why one shouldn't want to live forever', but on second thought, Colin Thompson has it right! In a large library (with more than a passing resemblance to the British Library) where there is a copy of 'every book that has ever been written', one book is missing. It is called 'How to Live Forever'. What the users of this giant library don't know is that every night families come alive in the books, and go about their ordinary lives. One night, a boy named Peter and his cat, Brian, decide to search for the lost book. It takes a long time, but in the end they find four elderly Chinese men who lead them to the Ancient Child. It is the Ancient Child who has taken the book, and he has done so to prevent other people making the same mistake he did. He read the book and has become a child forever. He sees his friends growing up, marrying and having children, and he cannot join them. He cannot grow old and die. Peter sagely decides not to read the book, and the Ancient Child takes him home.
These are the bare facts of a story that almost defies description. The illustrations are wonderful, truly imaginative, superb. Rows upon rows of books with strange titles, remarkably evocative of real titles, but not quite. Interspersed amongst the books are all kinds of quirky, unexpected items that one could spend hours pouring over. We see tall houses where the people live inside the books, and there is a canal and roads, archways and bridges. The Chinese elders lead Peter through a blue and white willow pattern garden, and the Ancient Child sits on a unique and amazing throne with his ancient and battered toys.
The Ancient Child says: 'I keep saying that I had everything, but all I had was endless tomorrows. To live forever is not to live at all.' The Ancient Child is a wise child, and every child needs to learn that life has a beginning and an end with whatever life we are given in between. It can be comforting to know that someone we have lost has had his or her own life and ending and would not have wished to have it any other way.
Age: 6+