I was browsing my favorite Shore book store when I noticed one of Rita’s recommendation stickers on an attractive bookcover in the children’s section: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a gem, the print version of an animated short film that won an Academy Award earlier in the year. Morris has his own website, where you can learn more about the film, the book, and the app. The principal of the film is aptly named, in this instance less clearly being more. The silence of the film accentuates the visual, and the beautiful animation and graphics accentuates the internal voice that the viewer can give to the film, and the reader to the book. In this instance it doesn’t matter if you read the book first (which takes all of 5 minutes) and then view the film, or view the film first (you’ll need about 15 minutes) and then read the book. What makes a children’s film or book great is the extent to which adults can find depth in it.
The jacket liner of the book reads: Morris Lessmore loved words. He loved stories. He loved books But every story has its upsets. Everything in Morris Lessmore’s life, including his own story, is scattered to the winds. But the power of the story will save the day.
The book might be an excellent metaphor for what happened to our patient, Ruth, whom I blogged about earlier. As a refresher, Ruth experienced a condition known as alexia sine agraphia, in which writing is intact but reading is impossible. Infarction in the left Posterior Communicating Artery (PCA) is most often the cause, as it was in Ruth’s case. The left visual cortex is supplied directly by the left PCA and input was therefore compromised from this area resulting in right homonymous hemianopia. In addition, infarction of a portion of the splenium of the corpus callosum affected the fiber tracts from the right visual cortex to the left angular gyrus, without affecting the right visual cortex per se. Ruth’s clinical presentation was therefore that vision in the right visual cortex and language in the form of speech and writing is spared (portion of the left angular gyrus, the motor cortex and its projections). Ruth could therefore see letters, but was unable to read because visual information was disconnected from the language area. There is often some natural degree of improvement in the patient’s ability to re-connect with reading, but as with other forms of acquired brain injury our philosophy is to aid if not accelerate the process. Having Ruth as a “fresh case” enabled us to follow her from the outset, and implement the strategies we use successfully for helping children who are having trouble with the visual aspect of reading at the brain level. Ruth was a reading teacher before she retired, and what was written about Morris Lessmore could have as easily been written about her.
“Morris Lessmore loved words. He loved stories. He loved books. His life was a book of his own writing, one orderly page after another. He would open it every morning and write of his joys and sorrows, of all that he knew and everything that he hoped for. But every story has its upsets. One day the sky darkened and the winds blew and blew … till everything that Morris knew was scattered – even the words in his book.” Ruth came to us thinking that perhaps she needed new glasses. It was not apparent to her that she couldn’t identify isolated letters from the storm that had occurred in her brain.
We were able to slowly put Ruth’s visual system back in touch with the abstraction of objects: symbols, then numbers, then letters, then words, and ultimately to phrases, sentences, paragraphs and pages. It was hard work on everyone’s part, and Ruth still has to read slowly to comprehend. She progressed from alexia to dyslexia, being able to identify words more rapidly, but comprehension and fluency come more slowly. She is not done with therapy yet, and is a work in progress.