More! by Peter Schossow Picture Book

more!

Peter Schossow’s picture book More! is wordless in the same way Robert Redford’s All Is Lost is wordless: Both contain one spoken word, imbued with huge weight accordingly.

Gecko Press brought this book from German to English in 2010, and have also translated another of Schossow’s works: My First Car Was Red.

Even a ‘wordless’ picture book follows the typical story arc.

 

STORY STRUCTURE OF MORE!

WEAKNESS/NEED

A man is small and helpless compared to the forces of nature.

DESIRE

The man would like to enjoy a walk along the shore.

OPPONENT

The wind, who blows off his hat.

PLAN

He will chase the hat.

BATTLE

The battle takes place over a number of double spreads, and we see the man thrown higher and higher into the air, until he is level with an aeroplane.

SELF-REVELATION

He likes it!

NEW EQUILIBRIUM

He will let himself get swept up in the wind again.

 

NOTES ON THE ILLUSTRATION OF MORE!

Ask a child the colour of sky and they’ll tell you ‘blue’. They get this from picturebooks, perhaps. In reality, the sky is many colours. But in this picturebook we have a distinctly green hue. Why? What was behind this choice?

Well, the thing about green is, it feels otherworldly. Green is associated with the subconscious; it’s thought we see green just before passing out (though I haven’t given this a go). The other thing is, a green sky means the sky is part of the land. There is no real distinction between land and sky. Did this story really happen, or is it entirely in the man’s imagination?

Notice the sun, also — this is not a distinctly delineated circle but rather a roundish glow, suggestive of some sort of magical haze. Yet at the end of the book we have a crescent moon. Over the course of a day the sky changes from bright to dark, but in this story the sky remains the same otherworldly hue of green. It’s only once you notice the moon that you realise the man has been flying in the wind all day. This is not the first time he’s asked to go again!

Though this is not a Christmas book, the colour palette is made up of green, white and the red of the man’s trousers and scarf. Red and green are complementary colours, so shouldn’t be commandeered by Christmas, sure.

This limited palette means the man is the same colour as the bits of rubbish blowing in the breeze.

This character has a very big nose. In fact, the nose is the first thing we see of him. I thought it was a chin. Then I realised the nose matches the shape of the shoes; these are big clodhoppers of shoes which should plant the man firmly upon the ground.

I’m left with one question though: What happened to his dog? Normally if the story starts with a dog it reappears on the final page. Did the dog get sick of him and go home alone? I believe the dog is an example of a picturebook McGuffin. The dog is the reason the man sets off on a walk in the first place, but after the inciting incident, the audience (generally) doesn’t think about the dog again. And it does work. For me, the dog’s fate was a refrigerator moment.

 

Anton Can Do Magic by Ole Könnecke

Anton Can Do Magic by Ole Könnecke is a great book for parents who would like to teach their kids The Magic of Reality (as expressed by Richard Dawkins and others).

Anton Can Do Magic cover

 

Written and illustrated by a German picturebook maker, this was translated by New Zealand’s Gecko Press.

Anton Can Do Magic is part of a trilogy (The Anton Saga):

  1. Anton and the Girls (2004)
  2. Anton Can Do Magic (2006)
  3. Anton’s Secret (2007)

As far as I know, only this one has been translated into English by Gecko.

bird is in a tree

STORY STRUCTURE OF ANTON CAN DO MAGIC

WEAKNESS/NEED

Anton’s weakness becomes clear only as the story progresses and we see he is easily duped and overconfident.

DESIRE

Anton wishes to impress his friends by performing a real magic trick. This desire is made clear even before the story begins, on the interior title page, where we see Anton gazing up at a poster of a famous (we assume) magician.

The reader is addressed as one such friend, and from the first page we are told, ‘Here comes Anton. Anton has a magic hat. A real one.’ We are invited to believe it. On the following page:

Anton wants to do some magic. He wants to make something disappear.

OPPONENT

This little bird with a mind of its own may ruin Anton’s magic trick and the stakes are upped when ‘the girls’ come along, since boys are especially keen on impressing girls.

But the bird turns out to be a false-enemy ally, or we might consider the bird to have no motivations whatsoever. The bird simply flits around. This is a ‘real’ bird rather than a storybook bird who wears clothes.

Anton and the bird

A better opponent is Luke, the boy who doesn’t believe that Anton can do magic. There’s more at stake when the opponent is human, because there’s a chance Anton will be humiliated. The reader does not want him to be humiliated, no matter how silly he is.

PLAN

Often in stories the initial plan does not work and needs to be modified.

Anton stares at the tree.

Then he does some magic.

When this doesn’t work he changes his plan slightly. He’ll try something smaller. The bird.

BATTLE

The battle scene is the bit where three children are waiting for Anton to produce the missing bird.

Anton produces the bird from under the hat and wins the battle, as well as the respect of the three children.

SELF-REVELATION

This is a Chekhovian story in that the main character is not the one who undergoes the revelation — Anton walks off the page at the end of the story and as far as he knows, he has made a bird appear. But the reader knows differently. We learn that although sometimes something appears to be magic, but it is really just coincidence and circumstance.

NEW EQUILIBRIUM

The final image shows us that Greta is happy to have her bird back, Luke is trying to do his own magic with the flower in his little pot, and Anton is satisfied.

COMPARE AND CONTRAST ANTON CAN DO MAGIC

When the child is a few years older, it’s time for this book. (Yes, much could be said about Richard Dawkins and all the junk that comes out of his Twitter feed, but I have to say it, this book is excellent.)

The Magic of Reality cover