Kristin Roskifte (translated by Siän Mackie)
Wide Eyed Editions
This immersive book subtitled ‘A counting story from 0 to 7.5 billion’ is the 2019 winner of the Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize. It’s easy to see why. It’s like no other counting book, that’s for sure and what is counted is people, people from 0 (no one) to 7.5 billion – the entire world.
The people are members of groups and many belong to two or more groups and so stories evolve around the characters, starting with a boy and his family making a total of 5.
You can follow these characters through the book, seeing how their various life stories intersect and diverge.
The narrator makes brief comments about people in their settings, for example in the classroom scene, of the 20 children ‘One of them is thinking about all the people who’ve lived before us. One of them has lost the class teddy bear. One of them is dreading football training. One of them will become prime minister.’
However, much is left unsaid so there are sufficient gaps for readers to fill and likely fill differently, on each reading.
Dive in, get lost in the pages, stop; study each one thoughtfully, and move on; eventually you’ll have met 2768 people. Then perhaps move back; the ‘spotting section’ at the end will certainly encourage you to do that.
Most importantly though, whatever other interpretations readers make, the indisputable messages that emerge are, that we are all part of one enormous, interconnected world group – the human race – and that each one of us has our own unique story, for as the title says, Everybody Counts.
Just imagine how many philosophy for children sessions might evolve if you start exploring this ingenious, visual festival of a book in the classroom.