Everybody Counts is a multiple award winning book from Norwegian author Kristin Roskifte. It is not your average counting picture book and I have never read anything like it before.
The first time I journeyed into this book it completely floored me. I just wasn’t expecting it’s brilliance or it’s complexity. What at first seems to be a series of everyday illustrations with an increasing number of people in each, is actually a series of stories about the individuals in the illustrations and how their lives are woven together through a series of coincidences and events.
The story starts with a boy and then we are introduced to the boy’s father and then the rest of the family. Things really take off from there as new characters are introduced each with their own stories. I have read through the book several times and have still not got everything worked out. I find myself constantly jumping back and forth between pages so I can see how individual stories develop and how the stories become connected in different ways. This is a book that I keep going back to and I know I will keep discovering new things; it really is a book with endless possibilities. It is impossible to see all the connections between the characters on first read and that’s part of what makes this book such a delight. You want to return to it, you need to return to it, just so you can figure out a few more parts of the puzzle.
Young readers will enjoy the counting aspect whilst older children will enjoy trying to piece together the different stories of the characters and establishing connections between them. It is a great book to observe what is happening, predicting what might happen and then going back to change your initial thoughts based on new things that you see and discover.
As the stories unfold, readers will find their thoughts of and feelings towards characters constantly evolving. I found myself empathising with characters one moment and then becoming suspicious of their actions in the next moment.
The illustrations are bight and bold and I really like the use of the plain white backgrounds with blue line drawings. The settings are simply portrayed and yet are instantly recognisable. Only the characters receive the full colour treatment and Roskifte has included a diverse cast of characters.
The illustrated and numbered pages come complete with text that challenges the reader to think and make deeper observations about the characters. It is the text snippets that had me dashing between pages as I began to make connections. The wider implications of the book would hopefully be readers taking time to think about their own lives and making wider connections with the people that are part of their own lives.
As I journeyed through the book my mind was filled with questions and wonderings. Who is the lady in the yellow trousers and red shoes? Do I know everything about Thomas’ dad? What is in the man’s pram? So many thoughts, so many possible answers.
A spotting challenge encourages the reader to go back and have more fun searching and finding. And if readers need help unpicking the stories on each page then there is a ‘secrets and answers’ section which is brilliant in itself.
This is part counting book, part detective book; and ultimately shows that everybody counts. The words on the final page are exquisite, “Seven and a half billion people on the same planet. Every single one of them has their own unique story. Everybody counts. One of them is you!”
Recommended for 5+.