Thursday, November 28, 2019

Review - Most of the Better Natural Things in the World

Most of the Better Natural Things in the World
by Dave Eggers
illustrated by Angel Chang
Date: 2019
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book non-fiction
Pages: 52
Format: e-book
Source: library

A tiger carries a dining room chair on her back. But why? Where is she going? With just one word per page, in lush, color-rich landscapes, we learn about the features that make up our world: an archipelago, a dune, an isthmus, a lagoon. Across them all, the tiger roams. This enigmatic investigation of our world's most beautiful places from bestselling author Dave Eggers is beautifully illustrated by debut artist Angel Chang.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I know the title makes this book sound like a pretentious literary novel, but it's actually a fairly simple picture book. Even though it features a tiger with a chair strapped to its back, it's really a non-fiction work that shows and explains various types of geographical features.

The bulk of the book is just the illustrations captioned with the terms of the features: steppe, fjord, archipelago, etc. I thought there was even a geographical feature called "dlands", but this seems to be just an error in the e-book (in both the OverDrive and PDF versions). The word is actually "badlands", as we see when we get to the end section, which gives brief explanations for the terms. Personally, I enjoyed this section the most (the book would've been missing something without it), although there are a couple of caveats. First, the definition of "fjord" isn't quite right; although they're formed by glaciers, they aren't always covered in ice. Second, the vocabulary is pretty advanced in some of these definitions, with words like "largely", "plentiful", "dramatic", "scope", "subsoil", and "biomes". I think some of those are beyond the reading level of much of this book's audience (and I don't even know what "subsoil" is)!

The illustrations are certainly colourful, and it's kind of neat to watch the tiger move through the landscapes. Where is it going? What is the chair for? The reader does eventually find out at the cute ending.

Since much of this book's value lies in the end matter, and that end matter isn't entirely suited to the audience, I'm not sure if I'd recommend this one. It does a good job of explaining the various geographical formations... but only if you have the vocabulary to understand what the book is trying to say.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 4/5

Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3.17 out of 5

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