A lone child explores the natural world and its many animal tribes, collective noun by collective noun, ultimately finding a place of belonging.
Against a frosty mountain backdrop, a child is hidden among a tribe of kids—goats, that is. After each departs, the youth is left alone until a colony of penguins offers sport. With them there is waddling and ample hugs. But an icy plunge leads the leaf-clad child on. Across jewel-colored waters, bright jungles, and earthy terrains, the protagonist travels, observing, imitating, and playing with the animals. But still there is a loneliness, even among the flight of butterflies—and especially when dwarfed by the moonlit ocean. After a night of dreams, the child climbs from a bed of clams onto the beach to find a trail of colorful shells leading home. Vibrant, refined illustrations propel the story forward. Each spread is gorgeously textured and colored, and everything has a crisp, defined edge. Never one to miss a comedic opportunity, Smith plays with puns in both writing and art. Beginning with the tribe of goat-kids, whom the child tries to blend with, and ending with a tribe of treehouse children whose merry play would invite any reader in, the revelatory repeat of “There is a TRIBE of KIDS” rings as a welcoming mantra of acceptance and love. Witty and humorous, never irreverent, this is a celebration of sharing and belonging, as a multiracial family hugs their adventurer on the closing page.
Smith soars in this earnest, meditative work about longing, the joy of interaction, and family. Absolutely radiant. (Picture book. 3-7)