Most of the Better Natural Things in the World + Interview

We follow a tiger on her journey through breathtaking landforms, blown away by the majestic beauty of each, meanwhile asking ourselves why she’s carrying a chair and what is her ultimate destination?  The curiosity and splendor of this nearly wordless picture book is one you have to experience for yourself.

Most of the Better Natural Things in the World was written by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Angel Chang and published by Chronicle Books.  It’ll be out November 5.

What was the inspiration behind this book?

The initial inspiration for the book was simple ignorance. All my life there had been words for certain natural phenomena that I’d see in books and maps, but was unable to define or picture in my mind. I think I was about 40 when I had a clear idea of what an archipelago is, for example. Does everyone know exactly what an atoll is? Maybe not. So I thought for kids it might be fun to see these things that are beautiful and also have great, sometimes weird, words attached to them.

Where did the tiger and the chair come from?

Everything proceeded logically. If you have a character moving through these varied landscapes, that character is logically a white tiger. And if a white tiger is moving through all of this disparate terrain, she’s probably going to be carrying a chair. And if you’re carrying a chair, it’s because you’re late for dinner. 

How did you decide on which natural phenomena to include?

I started with the strangest words, really, and the more obscure terminology — stuff the average kid might not know. Words like archipelago and gorge and tundra and steppe had to be in there. To some extent, at that point we had to have certain landscapes that would logically connect certain land formations. And then, of course, the last one, taiga, was the idea of the book’s editor, Taylor Norman. We already had a tiger and all these land formations, and she emailed one day about the word taiga. It all clicked into place.

How did you and Angel Chang work together?

While still an art student in San Francisco, Angel had been an art intern at 826 Valencia, our nonprofit, and she’d created a beautiful calendar that was sold in our pirate shop. When I saw it, she seemed like the perfect artist to realize the book. When we met, I really just urged her to make the book her own — to be completely untethered, with her only mission the creation of the most beautiful book humanly possible. At that point she took over and sent us one gorgeous image after another.

What’s your own relationship to the natural world?

I’ve realized over the years that I really have to be around raw natural beauty on a regular basis. Otherwise I feel a bit off-kilter. But it can be anywhere, really — a tiny beach, or an empty field, or bike path through the woods. In the U.S. especially, there’s so much open land. You just have to take a step or two off the beaten path. 

Were you a nature-loving kid, and do you think this will appeal to nature-loving kids?

Kids are inherently in sync with the natural world. It’s where they belong. They need space to run and act like animals, and the natural world gives them that; there’s a symbiosis between young humans and nature that’s as old as our species. If you set a kid up in an estuary, they can entertain themselves all day. But we have to let them explore, and trust that they’ll be okay. As a kid, I remember spending the vast majority of my childhood outside. The Chicago suburbs didn’t have a lot of Grand-Canyonesque natural splendor, but we had innumerable trees, and ravines, and a lot of open land, and Lake Michigan, which is really an inland sea. And every season had limitless options, winter being, I thought at least, the most dramatic and beautiful and fun to goof around in. Even an icicle colonnade on the side of the garage was good for an afternoon.

Many thanks to author Dave Eggers for sharing this Q&A that delves into the creation of Most of the Better Natural Things in the World!

What's Cooking at 10 Garden Street?

Delicious smells are coming from 10 Garden Street this afternoon.  Is it Pilar’s smooth salmorejo sprinkled with serrano ham, Mister Singh’s creamy coconut dahl or Penelope and Miles’ wonderfully savory and tangy green rice?  Or all of the above?  Head over to 10 Garden Street to see what’s cooking and meet the diverse neighbors who come together like a family to not only share heartwarming food, but each other’s stories and lives as well.  Felicita Sala’s gorgeous and lush illustrations are part of what made this one of our most anticipated books this fall.

What’s Cooking at 10 Garden Street?: Recipes for Kids From Around the World was written and illustrated by Felicita Sala and published by Prestel Junior.  It’ll be out on September 24.

Wee Society: Write On: My Story Journal

Three cheers — Wee Society has a new book out next Tuesday, 8/20!  Their new creative writing journal called Write On is pure gold.  Done in their signature bright and modern style, it’s full of creative and clever writing prompts that will make kids fall in love with storytelling (if they aren’t already!).  Young scribes will love exploring narratives, poems, comics, song lyrics, a tear-out story card game and more sweet surprises!  Once the book is complete, it’ll be a keepsake for the ages.  Smart, silly, ridiculous or just plain fun?  This book is all of the above.  It’s definitely a keeper (and a gifter for upcoming birthdays and as a first-day-of-school surprise).

We are partnering with Wee Society to give away two copies of Write On (one for you and one for a friend).  This giveaway is open to US residents and ends Saturday, August 17, at 11:59 PM PT. Head over to this Instagram post to enter.

What’s Your Favorite Food?

Thirteen authors/illustrators weigh in on their favorite food in the latest book in the Eric Carle and Friends’ What’s Your Favorite series.  For Felicita Sala, it’s paella — a party in a pan that everyone’s invited to.  Juliet Menéndez paints colorful, vivid memories of climbing the rocks and hunting for pitaya fruit with her cousins in Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.  Isabelle Arsenault never met a cake she didn’t like!  A charming collection of delicious memories and odes to favorite eats.

What’s Your Favorite Food? was published by Henry Holt and Co. Books for Young Readers.

How to Read a Book

HOW TO READ A BOOK is one part beauty and infinite parts magic.  It’s a stunning and immersive reminder to savor a book’s sweet words, take time to wander through its pages (getting a little lost on the way), and revel in the joy of the story.  Thank you to Kwame Alexander and Melissa Sweet for breathing inspiration into our reading lives with this rich, meaningful collaboration.

Be sure to listen to an excerpt of Kwame reading the book on HarperCollins’ website.

How to Read a Book was written by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Melissa Sweet and published by HarperCollins.