STARRED REVIEW
May 2016

Finding family

By Lane Smith
Picture books about collective nouns for animal groups have been done before. You could say this is what Lane Smith’s new book is about, but delightfully it is much more.
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Picture books about collective nouns for animal groups have been done before. You could say this is what Lane Smith’s new book is about, but delightfully it is much more. 

A boy in the wild is dressed in leaves and has no family or friends in sight. He wanders the landscape and meets animals—an army of caterpillars, a troop of monkeys, etc. The names for animal collectives are unusual ones, indeed, and Smith opts for the terms not as commonly used—a turn of turtles, a smack of jellyfish and an unkindness of ravens. Smith uses these delicious words to further the plot (the unkindness of ravens unkindly drop the boy, once again alone, on a formation of rocks). Even the book’s title refers to a name for a group of baby goats that is lesser known; most often we hear “a herd of kids,” not “tribe.” 

But herein lies the brilliance of Smith’s story: Instead of just listing unusual names for animal collectives, he brings readers a touching tale of family and belonging. The book opens with the lonely boy playing with a group of young goats, and bringing “tribe” full circle, he eventually stumbles upon a group of other wild folks. No longer will he wander alone. Cleverly, Smith makes effective use of tense in the book: All the sentences are in past tense until the boy meets his fellow humans. No more “was.” Now, “there is a tribe of kids” and there is a newfound family. The illustrations—textured mixed-media art that makes economic use of space to show the progression of time—are spectacular. 

It’s a story that is, at turns, funny and moving—and always entertaining. It’s not to be missed.

 

Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.

This article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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There Is a Tribe of Kids

There Is a Tribe of Kids

By Lane Smith
Roaring Brook
ISBN 9781626720565

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