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Phileas's Fortune: A Story about Self-Expression

4.54  ·  Rating details ·  1,072 ratings  ·  158 reviews
How can Phileas express himself to Cybele when he doesn't have the right words say? How can he tell her how he feels when he doesn't have enough money to buy the words?

Phileas's Fortune reveals the power of language and self-expression. Words are important, but what is more significant is the sincerity and character behind what is actually being said. True self-expression
Hardcover, 32 pages
Published April 1st 2010 by Magination Press (first published 2009)
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Average rating 4.54  · 
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 ·  1,072 ratings  ·  158 reviews

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Randie D. Camp, M.S.
Powerful, touching, warm-hearted story!

Phileas lives in a world where words are made at a factory. Only the rich can afford the valuable, creative, descriptive words. Phileas is not rich, people like him must hunt for words in trash cans, gutters, and if they are lucky, floating in the wind. Phileas has a special friend, Cybele. Her birthday is coming up, so Phileas saves up for three words to share with her. If he was rich, he would buy the words: I love you and happy birthday...but he is not,
Jan 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a little, adorable book.

Aside from the stunning illustrations, its greatest power lies in the message.

In a word where people have to buy words from shops (the longest, elaborated the word, the highest the price), Phileas takes the few, wrong, humble words he has and gives them a greater, deeper meaning, making Cybele understand what he feels for her.
Because when love is real, it goes beyond words.

~Recensione in italiano~

Oltre alle meraviglio
Mar 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
Thw whole time I'm reading this book, I'm thinking that it is a great concept and sweetly done, but something is just off. Yeah, the subtitle is insipid. Okay, the illustrations are about words, and the words are largely in French, but that's just a quirk of translation. Then the end... wow what a horrid little lecture from the American Psychological Association. Now I get it. Thanks to other reviewers on Goodreads I learn a little history of the book and how the American edition is skewed by th ...more
Erin Entrada Kelly
Sep 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Lovely. Brilliant concept, gorgeous illustrations. I do have one complaint, however: The translated title and subtitle are uninspired. This book was not originally written in English and has been translated in several languages ... I wish I could read those versions. In my opinion, "Phileas's Fortune" isn't powerful enough to lend credence to the concept of the book. And the subtitle reads like self-help, which is a shame. The subtitle alone would have discouraged me from buying it had it not be ...more
Oct 05, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was originally written in French (the version of which I have not read). The first version I read was in Chinese and is titled "The Word Factory" (the Chinese version is not an option on GoodReads). The pictures are beautiful with contrasting colors like dark browns and greys (the colors of most printed words) with bright reds that portray all the subtleties, ominousness and brightness that a world economy based on the cost of words would create. In the meantime, the narrative focuses ...more
J.V. Seem
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
God, this was a gorgeous book! The title, here in Norwegian, means "The Word Factory", and tells the short, but incredibly satisfying story of a young boy in a country where words have to be bought to be said. The rich have many, big, important words, but this little boy only has a few, stray words, which he's been able to catch with his butterfly net. He so wants to tell the little girl in his building "I love you", but only has the words "dust", "chair" and "cherry". What's really moving about ...more
Apr 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wow! Not only is the story beautiful, about the worth of speech and about the fact that having much is not always better than having little.

But the most beautiful thing in this book are the illustrations. To me, the only other artist who is that good and works in children's books today is Saun Tan - and that's saying something, he is awesome! Actually, the comparison to Tan works on more levels than 'just' quality, it's actually a similar approach: Valeria Docampo uses the same kind of clear li
Apr 08, 2011 rated it liked it
This is the best of the magination press books we've got lately, and it would be even better if it hadn't had the stupid afterword and the subtitle "a story about self expression." Because it has beautiful illustrations, and actually tells a really sweet story, but then you get to the end and they tell you what you should have learned from this story. Just so you know you couldn't learn a variety of things, because this is just about one thing. Which I thought was ridiculous, because the book wi ...more
Apr 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
We simply love the German edition, Die grosse Wörterfabrik! What a pity that the Romanian translation is so poorly done, in a very sloppy manner and crowded with stiff words...My 2 stars go for "Marea fabrică a cuvintelor" - Cartemma. ...more
I loved this book. I loved the illustrations, and the concept of a city where you have to buy all your words to use them. The rich can buy many and expensive words, while the poor look in dumpsters or catch theirs with butterfly nets.

This is a story about love, expression, class and money (at the very least). And it is beautifully done.
Denne boken er fantastisk. Illustrasjonene er nydelige, og verdenen med en by der du må kjøpe alle ordene du skal si er spenne
Mikael Cerbing
Oct 25, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: children
A very nice book with some interesting ideas and beautiful art. A bit to abstract for the little man at home doe, but he liked to try to find "his" letter amongst the art. I do think this could be a really interesting book to use with older children, perhaps 5 and above. But it will get an extra star for the art, and the we try it again in a year or two. ...more
Jun 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The illustrations couldn't be more gorgeous and the story itself is incredibly beautiful. I saw someone read this book aloud at a steampunk performance night in NYC. It is clever, unique and heart-warming, and I adore it. ...more
Heather McC
Aug 05, 2021 rated it liked it
In a land where all words come at a price, Phileas searches in his heart for the right thing to say to his friend on her special day, eventually finding that the meaning and sentiment can mean mote than a million words.
Khashayar Rafatzand
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I read the French version.
A world like no other, a story with unfathomable depth. forever etched in my heart.
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was a really sweet story about finding the right words.
Syntha Green
Jan 22, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: picture-books
Such an interesting picture book, simple yet profound. Beautiful.
Miss Undómiel
It's just so pretty! ...more
Gabriella Gabriel Dillmann
Jul 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book is both a work of art and a beautiful story about how the honest expression of what is in your heart is worth more than anything money can buy! A must for any child's library! ...more
Aug 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book is so kind, gentle, and touching. It was a comfort to read.
Jesica Brush
Nov 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
One of our favorite children's books. Whimsical, and also perfect for showing the importance of our words. ...more
Sarah Jean
Jan 29, 2022 rated it really liked it
Delightful picture book. One of my daughter’s favorites right now.
Jul 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Phileas’s Fortune: A Story About Self-Expression by Agnes de Lestrade and illustrated by Valeria Docampo addresses the importance of self-expression over showing off or bullying. Where Phileas lives there is an old factory that spits out words. People must buy, catch, or hunt for the words then swallow those words they wish to speak. Some words are expensive and Phileas is poor, but he catches three words and saves them to say to a girl, Cybele. A bully, Oscar, is able to afford very expensive w ...more
Apr 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Phileas lives in a town where a factory produces all of the words. You cannot speak a word until you have bought it (or found it) and have eaten it. Of course all of the fancy and important words are very expensive. How will he ever get the right words to say to the girl he loves?

In the first pages I had flashes of Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth. This was a very sweet story with slightly dark images for a kids' book. The only objection I have is the subtitle and the "parents' note" at the
Oct 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: elementary-age
Love this book. The illustrations were gorgeous and the story has such a great message without being all preachy. A big machine makes words that people then have to buy from shops (grr consumerism and capitalism) but it's the way Phileas uses the few words he's got that gets so much more meaning across. It's a very cute story full of nudges for thinking outside the box and that more can be less- both ideas that are very much against the societal push for what's popular and going big or going hom ...more
Susan Hoeck-buehler
Original Title La grande fabrique de mots.

I loved the concept of this book and envision using this as a discussion point with children in our international school. The children are multi-lingual and often arrive without any experience in the language of instruction. I see possible connections for discussions on friendship, love, awareness of body language and how we communicate with each other as well as on the difficulty of not having the words you need to express yourself. I haven't yet checke
The Styling Librarian
Apr 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Phileas’s Fortune – a story about self-expression by Agnes de Lestrade, Valeria Docampo – Picture book – Interesting book that can be carefully interpreted and shared with children for discussion on appreciation of what you have even if it isn’t wealth… I personally loved the idea of a community that cannot speak a word that hasn’t been eaten… and then the words that are quality actually cost too much for the average person. What a quiet community it might be! I’ll be thinking about this book fo ...more
Dec 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
OMG! How freakin' beautiful is this book?!?! In addition to being written wonderfully, the illustrations are fab! I LOVE IT! LOVE IT! LOVE IT! In a world where you can only speak the words you buy, you must choose carefully what you say and when you say it. What words would you buy and speak? *Sigh* ...more
Jan 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: edut-l-books
I thought the book was good because I liked the message portrayed that you don't need nice and expensive things to express yourself. I also thought the idea of having to buy words was interesting and original. The illustrations were also beautiful. The neutral tones and bursts of read really convey the mood of the story. ...more
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Phileas can't afford the words he wants to speak to his neighbour for her birthday. But he's found some beautiful words that he's been saving for her, and when he finally gets to share them... The combination of anticipation, intimacy, colour and the words created a rushing feeling in my ears and a warm feeling in my fingers. ...more
Dirk Vander Beken
Apr 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I worked with this wonderful book in my drama classes for primary school teachers in Antwerp and last week in Valencia. There is a Dutch kamishibai-edition by De Eenhoorn. I found a French film La fortune de Phileas with adolescent actors and a Spanish version for hearing-impaired persons. Inspiring book!
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Agnès de Lestrade is a French journalist, musician, and author of children's books. ...more

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