A yearning for connectedness drives us all – child and adult, something that is so perfectly portrayed in Lane Smith’s brilliantly imagined story of a single child and his journey through, and exploration of the natural world through a day and night, using a plethora of collective nouns as the building blocks.
Starting on a craggy, snowy mountainside, we see the child almost hidden by a tribe of kids (goats) who leave him one by one whereupon he heads off and comes face to face with a single penguin. The penguin takes him to the colony of penguins that lead him in a merry dance, followed by hugs (from the leaf-clad child to the penguins) and some waddling.
Thereafter, a cracked ice-flow sends the child plunging beneath the waters to cavort with a smack of jellyfish, then up again and right up – born aloft by one of an unkindness of ravens, only to be left stranded atop a formation of rocks.
Lane shows the child’s near perfect emulation of each animal group encountered, though maybe not the pile of rubble in the middle of which the youngster performs an amazing yogic headstand, before borrowing a leaf or two from the growth of plants and following the parade of elephants that lead him ever onwards – into a jungle landscape. A downpour results in a face-to-face encounter with a tiny looper caterpillar, and here Lane treats up to a genius sequence of tiny frames depicting caterpillar and child alternately performing a series yoga poses.
However, the child’s desire for the ideal connection drives him on, even from the flight of butterflies towards an immense ocean of blue – vast and intimidating -before which he stands in the moonlight. On the shorea place to rest, to sleep, to dream and to wake once more to discover a trail of shells that lead him finally to the place where he belong. Here there is a change of tense to denote just that: for now ‘There is a tribe of kids’ – a place to be, to connect – to belong.
This is creative genius at its best, and a truly gorgeous celebration of playfulness, acceptance, of belonging and of sharing.
Among the joys of this book (and there are many) is its orchestration through shifting colours, shifting moods and shifting shapes. Another is that throughout, readers are wondering – why is the child alone? Is he lost? Left behind? Abandoned? Is he just off on an adventure? Really one wants to linger long, on every spread pondering, savouring, admiring Lane’s artistic brilliance and visual/verbal punning; and to truly appreciate the book, you really do need to see it and look and look and …