Dramatic paintings add depth and foreboding to a lesson about excessive materialism.
Magpies are famous for collecting shiny objects, and this protagonist is a classic exemplar. At first, he stands in the bottom-right corner of a blank spread, downcast. Composition and expression display his isolated melancholy; the text murmurs, “Nothing.” A mouse gives him a marble, which sets the bird to collecting objects and building many nests to hold them. Text remains sparse: “A few, / several, // more / and more and more. // Lots.” The plot is simple: The collected objects become so numerous that a nest crashes to the ground, burying the magpie. (Mice unbury him; he’s uninjured.) The unsurprising moral is that two or three objects are, “Yes, enough” (though the magpie still needs the mouse’s persuasion to accept that lesson). Lies contrasts pale, faintly patterned backgrounds of handmade paper with forceful close-ups in acrylic and colored pencil. Large, dark areas inside the nests show stolen items—Lego, penny, toothbrush, binky, spoon—as identifiable but no longer shiny, emphasizing Springman’s message. The illustration of the crash is downright scary. This magpie’s leg-band goes unexplained; does it symbolize entrapment, civilization or the infinite danger (the numbers echo Pi) of hoarding?
Young readers not overwhelmed by the visual intensity will chant the minimal text; older ones will note questions about accumulation, materialism, friendship—and how to decide what’s meaningful. (Picture book. 3-8)