One & Everything is a fabulous picturebook, full of many layers: it’s an artwork, a message, and a prompt for thought and discussion inspired by the Endangered Alphabets project. It encompasses stories and storytelling, words and language, culture, oral traditions and expression. At its heart is language and written scripts and deals with complex concepts that would need the support of teachers and/or parents to help understand and interpret them. Having said that, the narrative itself is a relatively simple one to understand but the underlying concepts are absolutely fascinating.
The pages show ‘stories’ that initially appear to be covered in random patterns which are gradually consumed by ‘the story that decided it was going to be the most important story in the world’. However, at the end of the narrative, the author includes information about 10 of the unusual language scripts used. There’s also a map showing where the book’s 50 different scripts come from, and a list of them in both English and the scripts themselves. And then we see that each ‘story’ is actually made up of these languages, some still used today and others more ancient. According to creator Sam Winston there are an estimated 7,000+ languages spoken around the world, the majority of which do not have a unique written alphabet, and he explains there are questions underlying what you read in One and Everything; about how languages do or will survive or not, how they change and grow or are lost.
I would totally recommend One & Everything for schools, children and adults. It is not only beautiful in its simplicity, but it’s also a reminder of the importance of language in its many forms. One of the loveliest books I have seen for a long time.
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