I occasionally like to read books aimed at children and I have no shame. Sometimes, I'm simply searching for a book that makes me feel the magic I felt as a kid. I picked up The Neverending Story for that reason, but it didn't quite accomplish the magic.
Very minor spoilers are below.
The Neverending Story is a story-within-a-story about the bond between our world and the magical world called Fantastica, where thousands of exotic creatures live in harmony. Bastian, a lonely human boy, finds a book and realizes it’s calling him as the fate of Fantastica depends on him, his imagination, and his bravery.
I think I would've liked this book a lot more if I had read it at a much younger age; I can see why it's often a childhood favorite. I'm a sucker for nostalgia, so it's a shame I didn't read it back in the day. I enjoyed parts of it, but disliked Bastian more and more as the story went on.
One thing I enjoyed was the frequent comment at the end of a chapter: “That, however, is another story and shall be told another time.” It was a good way for the reader's mind to add to the world and wonder about the characters and stories that we'll never hear. When the narrator said this about Hero Hynreck and how “by then he didn’t want her [the princess] anymore,” I chuckled. That was one of the moments where I liked the outcome of Bastian’s storytelling and ability to create things out of thin air.
Some of my favorite parts were Ende's creative descriptions about the many different creatures. I’d still like an explanation for how the Tiny and his snail made it to the Childlike Empress before the rest of the messengers at the beginning of the novel. Grograman and his rainbow desert sounded like something people see when tripping on drugs. (I wouldn't know from personal experience. I limit my drugs to probiotics and wine.) The Shlamoofs - both the dreary and excitable versions - were hilarious. All of the characters were unique with an interesting backstory.
Cool creatures aside, this book certainly lived up to its name...at times, I was convinced it was never going to end. It was too long for what the characters were trying to accomplish.
Atreyu was awesome, though. He was the redeeming quality of the book. He was so steady and loyal that I truly loved him. His relationship with Falkor the Luckdragon is what made me actually finish the book - that, and stubbornness. (All I want in life is a magical creature to bond with: direwolf, luckdragon, talking bear, it doesn't matter. I just want one.) Bastian nearly made me give up on the book in the same way he had given up on his friends and family. I know there are lessons for the young reader to learn from his actions, but come on man! No need to turn into a jerk!
Shoutout to Atreyu for rescuing Bastian and the book itself. Atreyu’s got my vote to replace the Childlike Empress.
There was enough imagination put into the world of Fantastica that I can give this book a 3 out of 5, but like I said I would've enjoyed this way more about fifteen years ago. I recommend it for younger kids. Sometimes I can get into children's books, but not in this case.