Here’s how it starts: We see a dejected-looking magpie in the lower right-hand corner of the first spread. On the opposite page, in the far left corner, there’s the word “Nothing.” In between, there’s literally nothing but white space. On the next spread, a mouse offers the magpie a shiny marble. The bird happily places it in his nest (“Something.”). Next, the magpie finds a Lego block, then a coin. Both go in the nest, alongside the marble. “A few” quickly becomes “several.” But the magpie doesn’t stop there. He adds keys, sunglasses, a spoon, a toothbrush, and more to his collection. Soon he’s gone from “a bit much” to “way too much” and the magpie needs more than one nest to house all his things. Meanwhile, his mouse buddy is becoming worried. Just as he yells, “Enough!” the branch breaks and the magpie is buried under mounds of stuff. All ends well, however, when the mouse marshals his fellow mice to help uncover the bird. With a little help, the magpie finally learns the lesson that you don’t need a lot to be happy.
In her first children’s book, Springman practices what she preaches by being economical with her words—to great effect. Ranging from one word to three at the most, the text on each page cleanly and neatly propels the story forward. And the illustrations by Lies (Bats at the Beach) are absolutely stunning. Created with acrylic paint and colored pencil on handmade paper, his images of the magpie, mice, and what looks like hundreds of assorted objects are painted in a realistic style. While taking in the message that less is more, young readers will have a lot of fun identifying and examining all the odds and ends that the magpie has collected.
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Can you recommend other books for children that tackle the topic of materialism and convey the message that less is more?