Reviews: Moth: An Evolution Story & Most of the Better Natural Things in the World

Two wonderfully unique, educational and gorgeously illustrated titles on the review docket, courtesy of the kind folks at Raincoast Books. Without further preamble- I want to get right into talking about the two books!- I’ll be discussing Isabel Thomas and Daniel Egnéus’s Moth: An Evolution Story, as well as Dave Eggers and Angel Chang’s Most of the Better Natural Things in the World. Happy reading!

This is a story of light and dark.
Of change and adaptation,
of survival and hope.
It starts with a little moth.
A shiny cocoon wiggled and jiggled in the moonlight. Something was waking up from a long winter’s sleep.

Science writer and children’s author Isabel Thomas and illustrator and fashion artist Daniel Egnéus have collaborated on the fascinating, stunning, and reader-friendly, Moth: An Evolution Story, which introduces readers to natural selection as it spotlights the evolution of the peppered moth. When readers are introduced to the peppered moth, we learn that while most peppered moths “had speckled, freckled wings” “…sometimes a peppered moth was born with wings as dark as charcoal”.  While it seems as though the survival of the “salt and pepper” light-winged over the dark-winged moths is certain, we learn that the arrival of Industrial Revolution- and pollution- alters which kind of peppered moth begins to thrive. Thomas brings Moth back to the present-day with gentle turn that touches upon ongoing evolution, the current status of the peppered moth, as well as a kind nudge to learn from what’s happened and what’s occurring under our watch and not lose hope. Beautifully balancing science and lyrical writing that begs to be read aloud, with glorious artwork (mixed media and digital) that is at once ethereal and grounded, Thomas and Egnéus have created something special with Moth. An excellent choice for readers looking for a picture-laden introduction to Darwin’s theory of evolution, natural selection, and adaptation, Moth would also work wonderfully as a read aloud for older groups of children studying related subjects. As lovely to pore over as it is an enlightening journey, Moth is highly recommended reading. Notes: While listed as a picture book, you might find that your library has catalogued Moth as a children’s non-fiction title. Bonus: Further information on “the story of the peppered moth”, as well as further notes on “Natural selection” and “Adaptation” are included at the book’s end. Via author Isabel Thomas’s website, you can find a link to a Teachers and Librarians Resource Pack.

Let us turn our attention now to Most of the Better Natural Things in the World, written by Dave Eggers– author of The Circle and Tomorrow, Most Likely (with Lane Smith)- and illustrated by Angel Chang (in her picture book debut!). With only a chair and a piece of red string, a tiger makes her way through a multitude of places across our world- but where is the tiger taking us? Where is she going? And why? Rather than utilizing narrative or exposition, Eggers and Chang present the tiger’s journey with a one or two-word geographical/ecological term and a spread of artwork featuring the term. For example, in the opening pages, readers see the word “Steppe” and an arresting visual representation of a steppe, with only the tiger’s chair and red string in the foreground. The next page leads us to “Gorge”, with the tiger (now carrying the chair, affixed by red string, on her back) balancing over stones in the narrow valley. A marvelous foldout- from “Foothills” to “Vista”- as well as a brilliant turn on “Taiga” that ties the story all together make this read illuminating and meaningful. Angel Chang’s illustrations come across as lush and reverential all at once; her work is simply captivating and I cannot wait to see what illustrative projects in children’s lit she takes on next. With Most of the Better Natural Things in the World, Eggers and Chang offer readers a chance for exploration, for learning (adventures await looking up the terms!), and moments of wonder to be experienced again and again.

I received copies of these titles courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own. Titles have been published and are currently available

Author: michelle@fabbookreviews

Reference & Children's Librarian. Reader. Reviewer.

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