The Neverending Story is by Michael Ende (1979), and asks the question,
"Have you ever held a storybook in your hand and spared a moment's thought for the characters waiting inside?"
Typically as soon as you start to read a story the characters spring into life, fully formed and they live in their own world, with their own past, present and future.
But what happens if you don't bother to read the book? What happens if everyone gives up reading and talking about the stories? If everyone forgets about the stories, do the characters die? Do they just disappear into nothingness?
That is what this book is about. Our hero is Bastian Balthazar Bux. He is a rather timid, bookish boy who is unhappy at school because he is always being teased. One rainy morning he takes refuge from his tormentors in a second hand bookshop, and there he first beholds a book which he feels he absolutely must have, to read:
The Neverending Story
Bastian can't buy it, and so he steals the book, hides himself away in the attic of his own school, and settles down to read the same story that we are reading: The Neverending Story.
We enter the realm of Fantastica, where things are going badly wrong. The realm is being swallowed up, slowly but surely, by advancing puddles of nothingness. The diverse inhabitants of Fantastica send out messengers to their Childlike Empress who lives in the Ivory Tower to see if she can help or advise. Alas, she cannot, it seems, because she is also dying from a mysterious illness. She can only be cured if a human will visit Fantastica and endow her with a new name.
The stage is set. The Childlike Empress sends her hero, a boy named Atreyu, out on a mission to search for just such a human. Atreyu's task is a difficult one. He must launch himself off on such a wild and demanding adventure to try and draw the reader, Bastian, back into the realm of Fantastica! Atreyu succeeds, and Bastian is delighted to find himself suddenly transported into Fantastica.
You might think that that is the end of the story, but in fact it is just the beginning. Because, once there, Bastian has such a marvellous time that he does not want to leave. And in the end, he finds that he very nearly can't leave. He needs all the help he can get from his friends in Fantastica.
If you enjoy fantasy and roaming around totally new worlds populated by the outlandish and bizarre, then I'm sure you will enjoy this book! It was one of my children's favorite books and I enjoy revisiting this amazing world again and again.