Treasure filled the cupboards, corners, and closets of her house. It spilled out from under her bed.
Treasure hung from the trees and lay scattered across the garden. Her home stood out on the street like a menagerie of the strange and forgotten.
People in the neighbourhood were beginning to talk.
Maggie has an eye for treasure, buttons, bottle caps, feathers. She “saw the sparkle in everything.” Maggie’s collection starts small but, as it begins to grow, she is noticed by Ms. Pimms, other neighbours and city workers who thought she was just picking up the trash. Eventually she is presented with an award by the mayor. Then things get out of hand, Maggie’s treasure collection took over her room, her house, her yard. Ms. Pimms is no longer a fan. The city workers “were so bored they began grooming the squirrels.” The mayor is getting complaints.
Maggie’s parents say “no more”. She stomps upstairs but realizes there is a problem. What do you do with treasure? Guard it with dragons? Bury it like pirates? Maggie has a revelation. She creates crafts from her treasure: garden planters, bird feeders, mobiles, magic wands, jewelry, kaleidoscopes and maracas. She offers her crafts to everyone for free. Ms. Pimms drapes herself in jewelry; the city workers put mobiles in the trees in the parks; and the mayor enjoys the maracas. Maggie learns to be selective and only occasionally collects something – the best. She leaves things because she knows others have started collecting treasures as well.
Maggie’s story is competently told by Jon-Erik Lappano. The text is enhanced by the colourful digitally created illustrations by Kellen Hatanaka. Though not my favourite style, the illustrations are bold and energetic. The main characters (Maggie, her parents, Ms. Pimms, the city workers, the mayor and his assistant) all appear on the first double-page spread. While some of the characters change their dress, they are recognizable each time they appear. The figures of the adults are tall and elongated with small heads on almost giraffe-like necks. Their arms are sometimes stretched to reach a desired object, frame another figure in the background, or to gesture dramatically. The street scenes are intricate. The characters are sometimes interlaced as if in a dance. The city workers, usually three, sometimes meld together like a sculpture. After much scrutiny, I came to admire these illustrations. The double-page spreads that show Maggie’s collection are much less interesting and dynamic and remind me of illustrations from the 50’s and not in a good way.
My major hesitation about this story is philosophical, ecological or perhaps political. It is admirable that Maggie is cleaning up garbage because that is what her treasure is. No amount of crafting is going to solve the garbage problem or make neighbours and the mayor or the provincial government happy. Only 10% of plastics can actually be recycled. For each bleach bottle bird feeder Maggie makes, at least a thousand more go to the landfill either in Canada or after being transported to Asia. To imply that we should be satisfied with Maggie’s solution is disingenuous. No amount of striking art or pleasant prose should hide that fact.
Rebecca King, now retired, was the Library Support Specialist for the Halifax Regional School Board.