CM March 29, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 24

image One Two Many.

Mark Thurman.
Toronto: Viking Penguin, 1996. Unpaginated, paper, $8.99.
ISBN: 0-14-055826-8.

Kindergarten - grade 2 / Ages 5 - 7.
Review by Alison Mews.



At the Temple, the Keeper beckoned the boys to her. "Well, well, what have we here . . . trouble? Double trouble?? When one becomes two, the desire to part is very, very strong. There is but one way to solve this division. A journey. You must work together, stay together, for only together are you complete and strong. Apart, all is lost."
"You wished for something and you got it," said the Keeper to the boys. "Now you must see it through to the end. You must go to Double Isle.
"Take these three things: this flint torch, this feather, and this bag of pebbles. The journey will reveal their use." She pointed out over the sea, beyond the guardian of the city. "Now go."

image One Two Many, originally published in hard cover in 1993, is now released in paperback. The title is a play on words because when Jan's reflection comes to life, Jan discovers that two is one too many. The boys are exactly alike, with each believing he is the real Jan. They decide to resolve their problem by consulting the Keeper of the Keys, who sends them on a journey in which they must solve a riddle, find their way through a maze, and overcome a two-headed giant. Many elements of fantasy and mythology are here: the quest, the intervention of a wise person with mysterious clues, the obstacles to be overcome, and the resolution by using one's wits.

Unfortunately, the book does not live up to this promise. The ambitious nature of the plot overwhelms the slight story, the journey itself is too easy, and the language is pedestrian. Jan looks like an ordinary modern boy in jeans and T-shirt, and while the fantastic coming-to-life of his reflection is smoothly done, and the disagreement in his room (with its everyday treasures and books) is plausible, the subsequent swan flight to the Keeper of the Keys strains one's credulity. The Keeper tells the boys they must stay together or all is lost, but there is no evidence of this, nor do they actually help each other on the journey. There are no crises that require reciprocal support. With each problem, they think of solutions at the exact same time, as if they were one person. The journey, while imaginative, is too linear and doesn't engage the reader.


The illustrations are carefully detailed pencil drawings in black and sepia tones. This gives them an old-fashioned feeling, like that of early photographs, and serves to distance the reader from the present-day world. Thurman has included many visual allusions to mythological times, such as the statue of Atlas, that of Neptune with his trident, the head of Minotaur and the maze itself, among others, to increase the symbolic nature of the quest. While most of this will be lost on the picture-book audience, it does contribute significantly to the work as a whole.

In all, however, I find the story is too facile and pared down to carry the epic nature of the plot, and the elaborate drawings deserve a more complete textual treatment. Reminiscent of the "Zoom" books in execution, it misses their charm and mystery.

Marginal purchase.

Alison Mews is Coordinator at the Centre for Instructional Services in the Faculty of Education at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364