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I.C. Springman, illus. by Brian Lies. Houghton Mifflin, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-547-61083-2

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.)