Monday, February 27, 2012

Less Is... More by I. C. Springman






In a fabulously illustrated modern fable, author I.C. Springman and illustrator Brian Lies have given us a spare, 44-word parable of the perils of acquisitiveness taken to its illogical extreme, compulsive hoarding.

Springman's and Lies' tale features that most-collection-prone of critters, Magpie, who begins, as a bird with the blues, with nothing. A helpful mouse offers the gift of a blue-and-red swirled marble, and Magpie gratefully builds a roomy nest to set off his prize. His eyes glow as he admires the marble, and he is soon off to find other objects to ornament his home--a red lego, a golden schilling, someone's missing car keys, a broken strand of beads--and a collector is born.

Plenty is not enough for Magpie, as he continues to soar home with more objects, so many that his original nest becomes so full that there is no room for him in it. No matter. Another nest is built, and he sets out to furnish it splendidly with even more bright and shiny objects--from a pushpin to a pocket watch, a padlock, a toy car, even a mirror which reflects his bright eyes as he lovingly tucks a copper penny in among his treasures. The second nest bulges, portentously weighing down its limb even as his friend Mouse pronounces judgement on his new lifestyle:


The weighty collection can no longer be supported, and with a catastrophic CRACK, the limb fails and the heavy hoard cascades to the ground, burying its creator upside down, with only his shocked, straight-up legs in view. Mouse and friends hastily remove the debris of Magpie's collection, piece by piece, until he is at last freed from the weight of his possessions, with single fork left holding part of a peel-off non-fat yogurt top like a banner, one which proclaims Magpie's new state--FREE.

When is plenty enough? In a consumer society where closets are larger than our grandparents' bedrooms, most of us have begun to wonder the same thing. When is BIG big enough and when is enough stuff too much stuff? The award-winning Brian Lies' illustrations elegantly flesh out Springman's minimalist text in a tale that is sure to amaze kids with the sheer realism of its Walter Wick-like detailed objects and impress adults with its telling touches of irony. Magpie's right leg is banded, bearing, as one sharp reviewer points out, the number 3141 (suggesting the multiplying power of pi), while all the various detritus of human life is clearly symbolic of the over-abundant possessions of a modern life which generate (what else?) a profitable plethora of businesses whose sole mission is to whisk away that excessive stuff.

Springman's and Lies' More (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012), forthcoming March 6, is a light-hearted little fable which also functions fully as an engaging picture book for youngsters, who will focus more on the riches of the brilliantly executed pictures, the personable mice, and the amazing plenitude of visual variety that Lies' illustrations offer rather than on its warning of the perils of plenty.

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