There Is a Tribe of Kids



There Is a Tribe of Kids

by Lane Smith

Age: 2+

Interests: nature, animals, word play, family

Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan: 2016

36 pages

Also written and illustrated by Lane Smith: Grandpa Green, Abe Lincoln’s Dream, Return to Augie Hobble, It’s a Book, It’s a Little Book, The Big Elephant in the Room

Other books illustrated by Lane Smith: The True Story of the Three Little Pigs!, The Stinky Cheese Man, Math Curse, Squids Will be Squids

A child dressed in leaves travels the world, joining various groups of animals and birds, acting like they do, until he finally arrives at a tribe of kids, all playing in nature. He recounts his adventures and seems to have found his own family/tribe with them.

This book plays with the various words for groupings of animals and other things – from a pod of whales to a pile of debris and an ocean of blue. Along with the clever word play we see the child acting like every creature he encounters, opening the door for the reader to do likewise. One cannot escape the fact, however, that as each group of animals moves on, the child is left alone, and he even imagines a family of stars for himself in the night sky. He does not look sad at any point, but the ending still satisfies, as he finds his own community, or tribe.

The illustrations are characteristically lovely, similar to Smith’s previous book Grandpa Green. The other strong points of this book are the themes of playing outside in nature and active play as the child acts like the animals he falls in with. The vocabulary lesson is a little advanced for the youngest readers, but never gets in the way of the story.

It is important to note that certain elements of this book have stirred up controversy. Objections have been voiced about the use of the term ‘tribe’ and the depiction of children donning feathers at the end as they play in the forest, reminiscent of children ‘playing Indian’. The debate, however, seems to be limited to librarian blogs and listservs, and – as far as I can tell – Lane Smith has never responded to the criticism.

I really don’t want to tell others what they should or should not be offended by. I am aware of the cumulative effect of ‘micro-agressions’ and how blind the dominant culture (which includes me) can be to them. I just want to let you know about this issue and everyone can make their own decisions about the book.



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All writings posted here are © Kim Thompson, unless otherwise indicated. For all artwork on this site, copyright is retained by the artist.
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