Author: I.C. Springman
Illustrator: Brian Lies
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Audience: 4 and up. Age 3 is not too young; adult is not too old.
Summary: A magpie is given a marble by a mouse. The magpie flies to his nest and places it there. Now he has something. The something inspires him to get a few more somethings.. He moves on to much, way too much and finally more than enough. The whole collection crashes to the ground, burying the magpie. With the aid of the mouse and his friends, the pile of everything burying the magpie is removed piece by piece to become less, a lot less, and finally just enough. The magpie and the mouse fly off with just a marble, a chess piece, and a ribbon, joyfully free.
Literary elements at work in the story: This is a picture book, and what a picture book! There are about 30 words signifying quantity; several pages are wordless. But the pictures are clear, the colors strong, the details impeccable.. It’s a fascinating exercise to examine the objects the magpie adds-a lego block, a watch, a stamp, a book mark, a comb, etc., etc., etc. and to see the nests increase to accommodate these somethings. It is equally fascinating to watch the mice remove this accumulation piece by piece.. Some pictures are a full two page spread, some single page, some a quarter of a page. A puzzle: one of the magpie’s legs is clearly banded and numbered. Why? The moral of the story is unmistakable; it’s telling, a delight.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? The magpie may be male or female. A choice had to be made in the summary and this reviewer chose male. Changing the sex will make no difference in the story.
Theological Conversation Partners: We are a society of consumers. Many children with whom you will share this book have rooms like the magpie’s nests. Jesus had more to say about possessions than almost any other subject. Having things can come between us and God. Our hearts will go with our treasure. The rich young man went away sadly from Jesus because he had great possessions. Luke 18:18-24 The parable of the rich fool pairs almost perfectly with this book. Luke 12:12-21
Faith Talk Questions:
- At first the magpie’s nest was empty. Where did he get the marble? Why did the mouse give it to him. Was this a friendly thing to do?
- What did the magpie collect next? Why?
- How many nests did he have to build for his collection?
- What do you see in the nests? Can you count the number of things.
- What is the difference between plenty and too much?
- Do you collect toys and games like the magpie did?
- Is it wrong to have something?
- Jesus met a young man who, like the magpie, had collected much. The story is in Luke 12:18-24. What did Jesus think about collecting too much.
- The last picture shows the magpie and mouse flying away with only 3 things. Do they seem happy? Could they fly if they were carrying more?
- The USA consumes almost 80 % of the world’s goods. Think of the pictures in this book with us, rather than a magpie, collecting things. Do we need them all?
This review was written by regular contributor Virginia Thomas.