A young boy in a robe of green leaves, his dark hair tousled and wild, seeks a flock of his own in Lane Smith’s simply worded, beautifully illustrated adventure There Is a Tribe of Kids (Roaring Brook, ages 2-7). The boy huddles among a trio of mountain goat kids and skates with “a colony of penguins,” plunges into a bright “smack of jellyfish” and rides the waves with a handsome “pod of whales.” Smith’s gentle colors, clear, fine lines and sturdy textures perfectly evoke mountains, ice, forest, sky and ocean. One encounter leads to another until a “flight of butterflies,” “a sprinkle of lightning bugs” and finally “a family of stars” leave the boy under a huge moon and vast sky at the edge of the sea. He sleeps alone, dreaming in a giant clam shell, and a row of carefully laid stones awaits him in the morning. Young readers will be thrilled to see where it leads. Whether he is returning home or coming to it for the first time, it’s clear the boy belongs to this “tribe of kids.” This is a profoundly welcoming book — fresh and full of adventure and sweetness — about how each of us has a story of our own to tell.
— Kathie Meizner
The Extraordinary Suzy Wright: A Colonial Woman on the Frontier (Abrams, ages 8 to 12) by Teri Kanefield tells the story of Susanna “Suzy” Wright, a little-known 18th-century Quaker frontierswoman, poet and political activist. This richly illustrated book — featuring maps, photographs and reproductions of letters and paintings — offers an unusual portrait of colonial America and how one woman made her mark in it. “Suzy strove to live her life according to Quaker ideals,” Kanefield writes, “and a cornerstone of the Quaker faith was that all people — including women — were equal.” Wright not only helped raise young relatives, but she also became a valued friend and adviser to many leaders, including Benjamin Franklin. She also practiced law, cultivated medicinal herbs, helped stave off land claims on her property on the Susquehanna River, wrote what may be the first scholarly scientific article by an American woman and advocated for the rights of Native Americans. A thoughtful reminder of America’s debt to Quakerism, Kanefield’s book vividly captures Suzy Wright’s life and liberty.
— Abby McGanney Nolan
The shipwrecked protagonist of Peter Brown’s The Wild Robot (Little, Brown, ages 8-12) scans her new wilderness home with “softly glowing eyes.” Like her flesh-and-blood counterparts in classics such as “Hatchet” and “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” the robot Roz must figure out how to survive, alone, in a strange, potentially dangerous land. In his first middle-grade novel, Brown, who is best known for the picture books “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild” and “The Curious Garden,” casts Roz as gentle and observant. She seeks to acclimate rather than dominate. In this way, this imaginative tale, with its short chapters and relatively short, simple sentences, also acts as a parable, with Roz a contrast to human settlers of the past. Programmed to do any task with increasing skill, Roz gradually learns the language of animals and gains their trust. They help her to raise an orphaned gosling and deal with a harsh winter and a lost foot. Together, they confront the robot squad sent to retrieve her. Roz may not feel emotions, but young readers certainly will as this tender, captivating tale unfolds. Adults reading it aloud will smile as Roz, with her “computer brain packed full of parenting advice,” guides her curious gosling to take his place in the world.
— Mary Quattlebaum