A boy is lying in bed, looking out. A human being. He lies there counting his heartbeats. He’s wondering how many people are looking at the same stars right now.
In this book, there are many people who wonder, dread, look forward to or mourn something soon being over. You can count them all, but also look for them in pictures and wonder about how many different people there are on the earth, and then you spot someone in the crowd. And everyone is equally important. Everyone counts. The Norwegian title has a double meaning – “everyone counts/tells”. It’s more than a Where’s Wally? book.
In surroundings that are only intimated by blue lines, we can follow a multitude of threads and life stories, and constantly discover new ones. Two people standing either side of a library bookshelf then get married several turns of the page later, and we have to thumb forwards and backwards to find the lady who attends other people’s weddings and funerals.
With her keen eye for detail, Kristin Roskifte allows characters to both belong to a group and stand out on their own with their own distinctive personal traits. In addition to the many stories in the pictures, the text leads us to ponder many of life’s fundamental questions. The short text on each spread not only describes the group of people we’re looking at, but also singles some people out, often in a surprising way, with both humour and seriousness. This may relate to the smaller details of their lives or the bigger existential problems - the secrets we hide or things in the future we’ve yet to find out about. When, towards the end of the book, a thousand people gaze skywards to look at a comet, they all have something in common. No one knows for sure what the meaning of life is.
Alle sammen teller (available in English with the title Everyone counts, published by Magikon, 2018) stands out within its genre. It can be read time and again, and each time we discover something new. We might recognise the thoughts of others, and maybe even recognise ourselves in the characters.
Kristin Roskifte is an acclaimed illustrator and author of picture books. Alle sammen teller was nominated for the Brage Prize and has been sold in a number of countries.