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Review of There Is a Tribe of Kids

smith_there is a tribe of kidsThere Is a Tribe of Kids
by Lane Smith; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Roaring Brook    40 pp.
5/16    978-1-62672-056-5    $18.99

This is a book straight from the thoughts of a young child, with the feel of a daydream. On the face of it, it’s a simple book about collective nouns (“a colony of penguins”; “a pod of whales”), but read at a slow pace it’s an emotion-filled journey of a very young child finding a place in the world. It opens with our little hero, dressed in a garment made of leaves and sporting horns fashioned from sticks, surrounded by mountain goats. Soon the goats leave. Body language and facial expressions leave no doubt that this little human is sad. Background oil and acrylic illustrations have the look of sponge painting, allowing Smith to camouflage or leave hints about each species he introduces on successive double-page spreads, revealed after each page turn. The design mixes panels and spreads with the occasional addition of tiny squares, which serve as stories within a story. As the journey continues, the child imitates the play or activity of each new group, experiencing the joy of new friends and the pain of loss when they leave. In one particularly poignant illustration, we feel the urgency of the search for belonging when our protagonist stretches arms wide to embrace two constellations that look like parents. The trip comes full-circle in a satisfying blast of green trees filled with a “tribe of kids,” this time the human kind. Seeing our hero dancing and playing with new friends and family — finally, with no need for disguise or imitation — one can easily imagine young readers joining in: cavorting, dancing, and generally living the wild life of happy children, free from worry and care. Anyone would want to join this happy crew.

From the July/August 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Robin Smith About Robin Smith

Robin Smith is a second-grade teacher at the Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a reviewer for Kirkus and The Horn Book Magazine and has served on multiple award committees.

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Comments

  1. Robin,
    I am an elementary librarian and enjoyed this story for first graders for many of the reasons you mentioned. I recently commented on how I thought it was a lovely story on Betsy Bird’s blog and did not receive a very kind response from another person. Thank you for this review and the knowledge that not everything needs to be seen as offensive in this world.

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