If you are as much a fan of wordplay and wordishness as we are here on the Shelf, you should definitely seek out a copy of Lane Smith’s There is a Tribe of Kids. We were lucky enough to receive a review copy from PanMacmillan Australia, who are publishing the title here in April, and here is the blurb from Goodreads:
Did you ever want to waddle with a colony of penguins? Wriggle with an army of caterpillars? Or march with a troop of monkeys?
Lane Smith takes us on a colourful adventure through the natural world, following a child as he weaves through the jungle, dives under the ocean and soars into the sky. Along the way he makes friends and causes mischief with a dazzling array of creatures both large and small – but can he find a tribe of his own?
It was the stark white-blue tones of the cover that caught my eye with this book, quickly followed by the absolutely adorable hairy goats and finally, the cheeky little protagonist hiding amongst the huddle. I couldn’t begin to guess what the story might be about from the cover and the title, so it was with a little spark of delight that I opened the book to find out that not only was it about a tour through the little (and large) parts of the natural world, but also an homage to creative collective nouns.
The book begins with a small boy and the titular tribe of young goats and quickly moves on as the boy finds himself dropped, flopped and generally jostled from one group of animals to another. He goes floating with a smack of jellyfish, crosses swords with a crash of rhinos and even follows a trail of shells to a surprise ending that will have fans of wordplay and synonym grinning from ear to ear. My favourite page involved the boy mucking in with a turn of turtles, before getting bored with waiting for them to catch up and then falling asleep.
In each scene, the boy takes on some of the characteristics of the animal or environment. He uses twigs as horns while with the kids, practices inching along with no hands among the caterpillars and snuggles in for the night on a bed of clams. The illustrative style reminded me strongly of Chris Judge’s Lonely Beast series of picture books, with double page spreads cordoned off into smaller panels to illustrate multiple scenes on a single page. The textured images perfectly suit the natural terrains that the boy encounters and the greens and browns alternating with whites and blues throughout give a thoroughly outdoorsy feel to the goings-on.
The illustrations here definitely bring the minimalist, repetitively formed text to life and elevate this book to one that deserves to be pored over again and again. I can certainly see some mini-fleshlings being inspired to crawl like a caterpillar, climb like a kid or balance like a rock tower after flicking through this one a couple of times.
It’s for these reasons that I’m going to have to appoint There is a Tribe of Kids a TOP BOOK OF 2017 pick!
Until next time,