The Neverending Story is a re-re-re-read for me. Insert a couple of 're's more. I think I got my edition when I was ten, I still own it and I've read it so often I've lost count. I grew up with this book and it grew up with me, offering new things to discover and to think about every time I read it.
Ende has been accused of escapism, for this book in particular. Allow me to quote Neil Gaiman:
"People talk about escapism as if it's a bad thing... Once you've escaped, once you come back, the world is not the same as when you left it. You come back to it with skills, weapons, knowledge you didn't have before. Then you are better equipped to deal with your current reality."
And this is the Neverending Story in a nutshell. Bastian does escape his life for a time. And he makes mistakes, he learns from them and he comes back. It's not a book about taking refuge in fantasy and losing touch with your life. It about fantasy and imagination as part of your life.
I'm not a great friend of the movie, it reduces the book to the bare bones of its story (not even the full story) and takes away pretty much everything that makes it so special. It's a nice adventure movie, but nothing more. If you have seen it and never read the book, you've missed out on such a lot.
Older editions are set in green and red print, with beautifully designed initials from A-Z at the beginning of each chapter. Do yourself a favour and look for such an edition.
Michael Ende's father was the surrealist painter Edgar Ende. You can see his work here and I highly recommend that you browse a bit, the painting and drawings have a dreamlike quality that I find fascinating. I don't know if it's intentional, but the character of Yor the Miner strongly reminds me of Edgar Ende. Yor searches for pictures from human dreams in the darkness of his mine. Edgar Ende locked himself in a dark room and came out again with ideas and sketches that got turned into drawings later. And the pictures Yor brings to the surface resemble very much the actual works of Ende's father. Michael Ende also wrote a collection of short stories based on his father's work, The Mirror in the Mirror. It's one of his 'adult' works and has a much darker, surreal quality than his children's books, but if you like Ende's works, you should give it a try.
1. book for the Classics Club