WOW Review: Volume XII, Issue 4

Cover of Most of the Better Natural Things in the World depicting a white tiger sitting next to a chair in the foreground. The background shows a winding path going through purple mountains.
Most of the Better Natural Things in the World
Written by Dave Eggers
Illustrated by Angel Chang
Chronicle Books, 2019, 52 pp
ISBN: 978-1-4521-6282-9

Each page of this Kirkus and Booklist Starred Review picturebook reveals a single word and depicts a tiger journeying through the landscape with a chair on its back. Steppe, Gorge, Valley…Vista with a fold-out spread that is simply stunning…Foothills, Badlands, Tundra… Where is Tiger going? Why is Tiger carrying a chair? When Tiger reaches Taiga, we get the answer.

I spent quite a bit of time on each page. I was fascinated with the changing landscape and, in particular, with “Oasis” and how Chang cleverly embeds this feature in the shape of Tiger’s eye. In addition to Eggers’ hand-lettered text and Chang’s mixed media illustrations, the picturebook contains a glossary with definitions for each of the different geological features, and the endpapers feature a stylized map of the world. As a further bonus, a portion of the proceeds supports YEP, the Young Editors Project, connecting children’s authors with their young readers (Book Jacket).

This picturebook can be shared with children, middle schoolers, high schoolers, college students, and teachers. From finding out what they think about the illustrations to what they already know about the biomes, this picturebook could be a springboard into further explorations of biomes and geographical features. In addition, Tiger’s journey begs for questions: Where is Tiger going? Why is Tiger carrying a chair on its back? How is Tiger going to make it across the gorge or through the cloud forest or out of the gulch? Who is Tiger going to meet along the way? These questions and others serve as great prompts for students to write stories of their own, whether individually, in small groups, or as a whole class.

Most of the Better Natural Things in the World pairs well with a number of books, including Beastly Biomes, written and illustrated by Carly Allen-Fletcher (2019); Many Biomes, One Earth by Sneed Collard III and James M. Needham (2009); The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding Our World and Its Ecosystems by Rachel Ignotofsky (2018). It would also pair with books in the Biomes of North America series by Rebecca L. Johnson, such as A Journey into a Lake (2004); A Journey into a River (2004); A Journey into a Wetland (2004); A Journey into an Estuary (2004); A Journey into the Ocean (2004); A Walk in the Boreal Forest (2001); A Walk in the Deciduous Forest (2001); A Walk in the Desert (2001); A Walk in the Prairie (2001); A Walk in the Rain Forest (2001); and A Walk in the Tundra (2001).

Dave Eggers is a well-known author and co-founder of The International Congress of Youth Voices. He is the winner of many awards including the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Award for Education and the TED Prize. He has been a finalist for the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He lives in northern California with his family. For more information, please see his website: https://daveeggers.net/

Angel Chang is an illustrator in Taiwan. She has won a number of awards for her art and her collaboration with Dave Eggers is her first picturebook. For more information, please see her website: https://angelchangart.com/

T. Gail Pritchard, Texas A&M University

WOW Review, Volume XII, Issue 4 by World of Words is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Based on work by T. Gail Pritchard at https://wowlit.org/on-line-publications/review/volume-xii-issue-4/8/

WOW review: reading across cultures
ISSN 2577-0527