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The Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2012

Though I.C. Springman seems to have had earnest didactic intent when she wrote “More” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 40 pages, $16.99), I am happy to say that she fails. We are meant to take away an anti-materialistic message from this tale of a magpie who accumulates so many possessions that catastrophe ensues. Yet this delightful, sparsely worded book feels less like a lesson than a playful exploration into the degrees of meaning in ordinary phrases. With Brian Lies’s vigorous, marvelously detailed illustrations, we watch as the magpie’s “Nothing” turns into “Something,” then into “Plenty” and “A bit much,” which in turn become “Much too much” and “Way too much” until “More than enough” becomes “Everything!” Nest and junk and bough and bird all come crashing down. Kindly mice dig the magpie out, helping him to see that “A lot less” really can be “Enough.”

   

 

The New York Times, May 13, 2012

A Little Bird Told Me
‘More’ and ‘Little Bird’

By SOPHIE BLACKALL
Published: May 11, 2012

Having once been a child who read plenty of picture books, I’ve learned that owls are wise, pigeons are insistent and nightingales are heartbreakingly sad. Two picture books, “More” and “Little Bird,” without exactly anthropomorphizing the magpie and blackbird within, offer different avian lessons about treasure and treasures.

“More,” a cautionary tale sparingly written by I. C. Springman and lavishly illustrated by Brian Lies, opens with a forlorn magpie on an empty page, accompanied by the word “Nothing.” A mouse offers him a marble, which he gleefully takes to his nest. So begins his collecting, and soon he has amassed a fine assortment of treasures: keys, coins, chess pieces, a harmonica, a toy car. The text comes one word at a time, as the magpie makes piles of found objects. By the time we’ve passed “Plenty” and reached “Much too much,” there are several nests groaningly full, weighing down the branches of a tree. The mouse admonishes the magpie, “Enough!,” and sure enough the bough breaks and the nest comes crashing down, burying the magpie under his possessions. More mice and a squirrel come to the rescue, removing old toothbrushes and No. 2 pencils and a cassette tape (“The Wall”), freeing the chastened bird.

But I can’t help thinking the magpie is only going to wait until the mouse is looking the other way before he spies a shiny guitar pick and starts all over again. (I know because I am this magpie — even as I write this, my iPhone is chirruping to announce the eBay acquisition of an assortment of unnecessary vintage trinkets.) The loot here is so lovingly detailed, I imagine kids will have a fine time identifying hidden objects and may need to be guided to the larger message about curtailing consumption. Or maybe that’s just me.

   

 

Kirkus Reviews, Picture Books Go Green, April 20, 2012

Earth Day is upon us, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to mention four spring picture books that get the green thing right.

Let’s get straight to it then.

I.C. Springman describes herself as a “small-house person in a McMansion-loving world.” She wrote More for her grandsons in the hope that “one day there will be enough for all” in our consumer-driven world. That may make you wonder if you’re in for some preaching, but fret not. This isn’t an explicitly moralistic tale for children about the idea that less is more. Instead, it’s an economically worded story of great—and graceful—restraint, illustrated in rich, detailed acrylics and colored pencil by Brian Lies.


One magpie starts out with nothing. “Nothing” becomes “Something” when a mouse brings him a marble for his nest. The magpie keeps piling on the junk until the mouse declares it’s “more than enough,” then helping the bird declutter. Springman and Lies give lots of space in this striking book for child readers to consider what it truly means to conserve. (Now if only the mouse could come to my house…)

I chatted briefly with Lies about this book, and it turns out that it’s had an interesting, rather mind-meldy path to publication. “I first came up with the idea of a book about a bird with a hoarding problem back in 1995,” he told me, “but I couldn't make the text I'd written to accompany the suite of sketches I'd drawn NOT be preachy. Then in 2010, I.C. Springman's spare text, through several sheer coincidences, was plucked from the slush pile by the assistant to my editor, the intrepid Kate O'Sullivan at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who had never seen my earlier attempts at More. She thought I might be able to do something interesting with the spare text. Those quantitative words made all the difference—though it definitely has a message, it no longer wags a finger at you.”

   


The Guardian
(UK) March 4, 2012


SUMMARY:
One magpie,
lots of stuff,
and a few friendly mice
show us that less is
more.

This innovative and spare picture book asks the question: When is MORE more than enough? Can a team of well-intentioned mice save their friend from hoarding too much stuff? With breathtaking illustrations from the award-winning Brian Lies, this book about conservation wraps an important message in a beautiful package.

IAN’S RECOMMENDATION: For ages 4 and up. Brian Lies’ artwork highlights this book!

   

 

School Library Journal, March 2012 (starred review)

SPRINGMAN, I. C. More. illus. by Brian Lies. unpaged. CIP. Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2012. RTE $16.99. ISBN 978-0-547-61083-2. LC 2011025131.

PreS-Gr 3–Told in a spare 27 words, this visual tale features an inauspicious magpie, a corvid well known for its intelligence and acquisitiveness. The three-part tale can be summarized as “more…less…enough.” The magpie and a mouse start with nothing, find a few shiny, cast-off items, and hustle them to their nests. Then suddenly, and not surprisingly, their nests are bursting with stuff: keys, coins, LEGOs, marbles, combs, necklaces, Tinkertoys, padlocks, and more. Young readers will find themselves in a Waldo world of things to point to and identify. The paintings are highly realistic and up close, in acrylic on handmade paper, and the text is hand lettered, which brings home its ecological message. The tide turns on one of the darkest-hued pages, when the magpie, famously reflected in a mirror, recognizes that enough is enough. But it is too late, and here lies the message. This is a timely, clearly needed fable for contemporary society as it tries to unravel itself from excessive materialism. Ideal for discussions about reducing consumption.

–Sara Lissa Paulson, American Sign Language and English Lower School PS 347, New York City

   

 

Publishers Weekly, January 9, 2012

Lies’s (Bats at the Ballgame) marvelously lifelike paintings of a kleptomaniac magpie and a mouse with superior judgment do most of the storytelling in a story anchored on debut author Springman’s string of quantity words (“Lots. Plenty. A bit much”). The first spread shows a single word at left (“Nothing”), a long expanse of blank backdrop, and a despondent magpie all alone at the far right. A mouse offers a glass marble to the delighted magpie: “Something.” A Lego block makes “a few,” and a coin makes “several”; the magpie’s three treasures are shown in its nest under the bird’s dramatically enlarged feet. In no time, the magpie assembles mounds of junk: “Way too much.” The mouse calls a halt—“Enough!”—as the magpie is buried under its own treasure. The fable offers a finely drawn, restrained “less is more” lesson about attachment to things (so finely drawn, in fact, that some children with overflowing toy boxes may not recognize themselves). Lies’s striking paintings of the magpie’s flashy wings, swooping tail, and gleaming eyes—as good as any field guide’s—are the story’s real treasures. Ages 4–8. (Mar.)

   

 

BooksForKidsBlog (February 27, 2012)

NOTHING.

SOMETHING.

MORE

AND MORE

AND MORE.

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:

ENOUGH!

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.

   
     

 

Wired.com’s GeekDads (February 1, 2012)

Despite the well-known saying “Less is more,” I’ll admit that — most of the time — for me, more is more. I try to curb my spending, I do my best to curb my consumerist impulses, but the fact is: I like stuff. It’s hard to avoid, particularly in the US, even in the middle of a recession.

Well, maybe it’s too late for me, but at least I can start encouraging my kids to consider the idea. Here are three (new and upcoming) picture books that illustrate the principle “Less is more.” The first is a pretty straightforward illustration of having too much; the second deals specifically with our addiction to screens; and the third is a little more abstracted but I think serves as a nice illustration of the idea.

We’ll start with More, written by I. C. Springman and illustrated by Brian Lies. The book features a magpie finding treasures for his nest: a marble, a Lego brick, a coin. But as he collects more and more things (and deposits them in an increasing number of nests), his mouse friend begins to worry that he’s gone from some to lots to plenty to much too much. It takes the mouse and his friends to dig out the magpie from the stuff he’s collected, at which point he learns (at least for now) to be satisfied with enough.

The text in More is pretty sparse: just a few phrases scattered across the pages: “Nothing. Something. A few, several, more and more and more.” The main attraction is the artwork by Lies, who also created a series of fantastic bat books: Bats at the Beach, Bats at the Library, Bats at the Ballgame. (My favorite of those is the library, which features a bat imagining itself in a variety of classic children’s books.) The magpie is beautifully rendered, with lots of detail and plenty of attitude. The mouse friend is expressive — and somewhat reminiscent of Lies’ bats, actually.

One fun detail about the book is that a lot of the clutter illustrated in the book actually came from Lies himself: he dug into bins and boxes and his own collections of things, and found things like an Austrian shilling that he got on a trip during high school, or his great-grandfather’s harmonica. Illustrating the book (and finding all these things to illustrate) pushed Lies toward the realization that his own house could use a little de-cluttering.

It’s a beautiful book, and one that I’m going to leave in a conspicuous location for my kids, in the hopes that maybe they’ll be encouraged to get rid of some of their unused toys. More will be available in March, but is available for pre-order now.

   

 

Concord, (NH) Monitor, February 5, 2012

Cautionary tale of greed and materialism
Mouse wants to help Magpie let go
By Sarah M. Earle / For the Monitor

“Enough!” The field mouse has had it. After innocently offering a dejected magpie a pretty marble, he has watched his friend rapidly develop a hoarding problem of reality TV proportions. For a while, he merely observes from the edges of the bird’s ever-expanding treetop residence, a worried expression on his bewhiskered face.

But one day, when the magpie arrives at his nest with yet another treasure to add to his collection of board game pieces, office supplies, souvenirs and sundry shiny objects, the mouse can stand idly by no longer.

His paws curled into fists, his eyes squeezed shut, his mouth a triangle stretched downward with chagrin, he lets loose with a succinct analysis of his friend's unhealthy preoccupation.

Children’s literature has given us many characters to love over the years, from resourceful spiders to free-spirited orphans to brave young wizards. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a character more universally relevant to the modern American family than this impassioned rodent, the creation of best-selling illustrator Brian Lies, teaming up with debut writer I.C. Springman.

More, which happened to arrive on my doorstep just as I was in the midst of one of my own impassioned, week-long, household purges, is quite singularly a story about the dangers of greed and materialism. This being a children’s book, it’s allowed to be glaringly didactic, and it is. But as the economic crash so mercilessly taught us, we adults sometimes need to be hit over the head, too.

It would be hard, though, to call More preachy, given that the entire text totals just 45 words. One of the wonders of this action-packed picture book, which hits bookstores next month, is just how much it manages to say in so few words. More amazing still is that Springman, whose biography offers few clues to her success story, has managed to break into the competitive world of children's literature with so spare a manuscript.

The concept, though, is one of effortless brilliance, and Lies’s execution is extraordinary. The Massachusetts author/illustrator, best known for his New York Times best-selling bat books (Bats at the Library, Bats at the Beach, Bats at the Ballgame) used trinkets and knick knacks from his own household—an old pocket watch, a harmonica owned by his great-grandfather, a ceramic crow whistle, an Austrian shilling from a high school foreign exchange trip - to create the magpie’s ever-growing stash.

Lies’s magpie is an earnest, expressive fellow, and he works so hard to collect the junk that soon overruns his home, you can’t help liking him. Many readers, to be sure, will relate more to him than to his furry friend.

On the other hand, those of us who feel as though we spend most of our time sorting doll clothes and Legos and trying to help family members locate things they left God knows where, will cheer for the little mouse as he finally vocalizes his frustration (and those of us whose frustration tends to manifest itself in the form of 15-minute lectures will admire his restraint). We’ll share his sense of pride as he helps un-bury his buddy and allocate his treasures to other woodland animals.

Finally, packrats and minimalists alike can celebrate the feeling of freedom the friends enjoy as they fly away, unencumbered except for a few special treasures tied with ribbon.

Lies, who admits to battling clutter in his own home (Springman, a “small-house person in a McMansion-loving world” is evidently the mouse to Lies’s magpie), will be visiting bookstores across the region this spring to talk about the book. He has also been chosen to create the materials for the 2012 Collaborative Summer Reading Program for public libraries.

With any luck, he’ll be too busy to tackle that clutter for a few more months.

   

 

Sandy Brehl’s Unpacking the Power of Picture Books blog

LOOK for MORE by BRIAN LIES
I hope you’ve already met BRIAN LIES (looks like “lies” but rhymes with “cheese”).

Just in case you’re not familiar with his work, the 2012 release of MORE, by I. C. Springman and illustrated by Brian Lies, is an ideal introduction.

An incredibly intense visual experience combines with a few perfectly chosen words to create a marvelous story arc in this recent release. This book uses a progression of descriptive “quantity” words to indicate increasing amounts from nothing to something to enough on to too much. Then, like a receding tide, the story continues back to less, ending at the start- but not quite where it began.

If you aren’t already a fan of birds, mice, and nature, not to mention magpies, you will be by the end of this book. The multiple subplots and subtexts, the expressive faces and body language, and the depth of theme make multiple rereadings and close examination a treat. The intricacies and humor of the details are utterly irresistible.

While the obvious theme is “Less is More”, it also explores friendship, community efforts, and loyalty.

As Levar Burton always says on Reading Rainbow: “But don’t take my word for it...” Other rave reviews about MORE can be found at KIRKUS REVIEWS and GEEKDAD blog.

Then take a look at even MORE of Brian Lies’s work.

I’m an admitted bird-lover. Have been since I was a child. I came to an appreciation of bats much later in life. Separating fact from myth about bats with third graders will do that for you.
So will reading Brian Lies’s titles about bats: BATS AT THE BALLGAME, BATS AT THE BEACH, and BATS AT THE LIBRARY.

These bats exude oodles of adventurous and comical personality despite the appropriately dark-hued images in each book. Rhymed verse adds appeal. Considering the fantastic premise of each story, a remarkable amount of accurate information about bats is revealed within the context of the stories.

Do yourself and any kids you know a favor and spend some time with Brian Lies. (And that includes his many other titles!)

Then stop back and let me know what you think.

Be sure to check comments below- Brian Lies was kind enough to stop by with some thoughts about his illustration process for MORE.

Sal’s Fiction Addiction blogged about MORE this week, too.