A young boy, Bastian, hides in a bookshop to escape a group of bullies, and discovers the ultimate answer to his love of books - a tale called "The Neverending Story". He makes off with the book and quickly becomes enthralled in the story of Atreyu, a boy his age who must save the magical world of Fantastica, which is full of strange and colorful characters, including the "Nothing" which turns everything into emptiness. But as the story continues Bastian comes to realize that this is more than an ordinary book, and that he himself is slowly becoming part of an adventure in another world...
The morality in this book is very good. In the first half it is absolutely clear which characters are bad and which are good. In the second half, where Bastian is forced to take on the role of leader, he begins to face deeper moral struggles. Since much of the book is concerned with whom one should trust, he has a difficult time discerning between good and evil characters, although it should be clear to the reader when he has made a bad choice of friends. All is made equally clear to Bastian by the end.
There is a strong theme of self-giving and self-sacrificing love throughout the book. Although Bastian initially does only what gives him pleasure, he learns by the end that the love of others is the only way to be free.
Bastian steals "The Neverending Story" from Mr. Coreander. He later takes responsibility for his actions, apologizing to the owner.
Bastian makes several other wrong choices, including betraying his best friend Atreyu and choosing to follow the advice of a sorceress, but these actions are later regretted and portrayed as doing nothing but harm to Fantastica.
There is a fair amount of fairytale magic in the book, but since Fantastica is supposed to be merely a name for the imagination, none of it is portrayed as real. None of it is similar to actual occult rituals. There are no spells, or magic words (with the possible exception of a word used to activate a stone which gives light, the word simply being the name of the stone).
Atreyu and Bastian wear a medallion called "AURYN" which is a sign of being a messenger for the Empress. It also has powers, including protecting the one who wears it from falling into overwhelming sorrow in the swamps of sadness, and granting wishes. Bastian also wears a belt that makes him invisible.
Xayide, one of the story's main villains, is a sorceress, but she is portrayed as completely evil.
A "luck dragon" is portrayed as a good character, as is a djinn.
There are some battles during which stabbings take place, but none of them are graphic.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Xayide smokes from a hookah.
There are references to drinking some wine or ale.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
At one point it is mentioned that Bastian asked his religion teacher whether Christ had to use the washroom, and that he was rebuked for disrespect.
There are some scenes in this book that might scare younger children, especially that involving the werewolf Gmork. Older children should be fine, however.
This book is a fine addition to anyone's fantasy library, and is an especially good antidote to the Harry Potter craze. Love of family, sacrifice, and honesty are highlighted. The fairytale magic is handled well, and the characters are well-drawn. Excitement runs high in this book, and it is full of wonderful invitations to the reader to use his own imagination in finishing the "other stories to be told other times" of side characters and situations. The book is satisfying, well-written, and all-around unforgettable. Middle-schoolers and teens will especially enjoy it, but adults will get a great deal of fun out of it as well.