Alice B. McGinty: Tales take children on wonderful journeys
The seasons are slowly starting to change, one step forward, two steps back, to spring. These two new picture books are about the journey and seeking change.
"All We Know" (2016, Harper, written by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Jane Dyer, ages 2-5) begins with spring and takes us through a year with an adventuresome toddler on a journey of exploration.
This lyrical book, blooming with warm watercolors, begins, "A cloud knows how to rain. The thunder, how to boom. A bulb knows when it's time to sleep/and when it's time to bloom."
Readers are introduced to seeds that know how to sprout, a lamb that knows how to bleat and bees that know where the nectar is. They learn that "a mole can dig a hole. And beans don't need a lesson in how to climb a pole."
We follow the changes in seasons as we see that oak trees know when to sprout new leaves and when to let them go and that pumpkins in the fall know to grow.
Toward the end, the focus broadens. "The stars know how to shine. The Earth knows how to turn. The sun knows when to wake each day — it didn't need to learn."
The book ends with the toddler, having marched through the seasons, playfully sitting with his mother as she finishes by telling him, "And I know how to love you. No one taught me I just knew."
"There is a Tribe of Kids" (2016, Roaring Brook, written and illustrated by Lane Smith, ages 3-10) is about a different type of quest.
While the text of this book is quite simple, examining the unusual collective nouns that describe groups of animals, it's the illustrations, textured paint and colored pencil on sponged backgrounds, that bring a beautiful story to life between the words.
Within an Arctic setting, we see a pixie-like child living with a group of mountain goats, then leave his place to search for his tribe. The text begins, "There was a tribe of kids."
On his quest, the child dances joyfully with a group of penguins, as the text states, "There was a colony of penguins." His journey continues as he floats with "a smack of jellyfish." The humor in each illustration, like the child's leafy tunic floating away with the jellyfish and his loving hugging of a whale, give the book an endearing quality.
While journeying with the pod of whales, the child's adventures continue with an "unkindness of ravens" and continues with the "parade of elephants," marching with them, echoing their proud posture. He jams with the "band of gorillas," until he takes things too far and has to crawl away with "a turn of turtles."
His journey leads him through rain and snow, befriending an "army of caterpillars" and a "flight of butterflies." There is a feeling of joy, yet yearning, and the child's quest pushes us forward as we read. There is beauty, such as in the "sprinkle of lightning bugs" and a "night of dreams," until finally, a "trail of shells" leads him, tired and ready, toward the end of his journey.
And "There was" the text states as we turn the last page, "a tribe of kids." Our hero has found his home. The illustrations playfully bring in all of the animals from the journey as the child plays with his tribe, a group of joyful pixie-like children.
This beautiful, witty and deeply touching book is about enjoying the journey and finding where we belong. The depth of its message makes it appropriate for a wide age range, with layers for everyone to appreciate and enjoy.
Alice B. McGinty (http://www.alicebmcginty.com), is the award-winning author of over 40 books for children, recently named the recipient of the 2017 Illinois Reading Council's Prairie State Award for Excellence in Writing for Children. Ms. McGinty enjoys doing author visits and teacher training in schools and libraries.