Flora & Ulysses was released on Disney+ last February, and all my kids are talking about is the book Terrible Things That Can Happen to You. It’s not a real book; it’s the book Flora refers to throughout the movie (which, ironically enough, is based on the real book Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures written by Kate DiCamillo). For any kid who can associate even a little bit with Flora, the idea of reading a fun fact–filled book like Terrible Things is so tempting. Unfortunately, the number one terrible thing that can happen to you is finding out the book doesn’t exist.
Never fear!! Book Riot is here!! And like any good superhero-squirrel, we have a list of books like Terrible Things That Can Happen to You for your kids to read in its place. They may not be the exact same book, but they are definitely as funny and inspiring as Terrible Things That Can Happen to You. And maybe they’ll help your little Flora (or Ulysses) when they’re in trouble too.
The Questioneers Collection by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
It started with Iggy Peck, Architect. Then we met his classmates Rosie Revere, Engineer and Ada Twist Scientist. In 2019, Sofia Valdez, Future Prez joined the crew and later this year we will have Aaron Slater, Illustrator. That is quite the team-up of kids bursting with curiosity and creativity. Thankfully, we can now buy them in a complete set of books: The Questioneers Collection written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts. These books are a massive hit with the kids, showing them characters who are unique in their quirks and stronger in their uniqueness. When terrible things happen, we want kids with creative thinking to find the solution. After reading these books, kids will be ready to take on the world!
Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid: 47 Countries, 100 Extraordinary Places to Visit by Dylan Rhuras and Rosemary Mosco and Joy Ang
Terrible things can happen anywhere in the world, but learning about them is kinda exciting. When you put them all together in a book like this, it creates a super-charged imaginative adventure sparked by weird-but-true facts. And we all know those are the best facts of all. You think terrible things can happen to you? How about travelling to Yucatan, ground zero for the ancient meteor crash that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs? Now that’s an epic bad day. Or check out the cave in Vietnam, so big you can fly a plane through it! My favourite is the Austrian National Library, Nationalbibliothek, with secret passages hidden behind the bookshelves. Be prepared for the reference guide to start off your next great adventure!
Under the Stars: Astrophysics for Bedtime by Lisa Harvey-Smith and Mel Matthews
When the kids start asking questions about space, I find it a bit hard to keep it on track right before bedtime. The idea of black holes and the Big Bang always seem to lead to longer explanations and I can never tie off the ends to allow their minds to settle before sleep. Professor Harvey-Smith has made this a lot easier for grownups and kids! There are plenty of sweet short chapters to explain a range of topics, including the connection between shooting stars and astronaut poop. This is a hit for any curious minds, young and old.
Brain-Fizzing Facts by Dr Emily Grossman and Alice Bowsher
The most amazing facts may not help you in everyday scenarios but they can definitely be helpful when terrible things happen! For example, how can you escape the grip of a crocodile’s jaw? Can an egg bounce? And why does hippo sweat work like sunscreen? The best part of this is how easily Dr Grossman communicates with kids. Brain-Fizzing Facts knows its audience and delivers in an easy-reading goofy style to make science fun without dumbing it down. You can tell this is created by a team who wants to encourage more kids to embrace their curiosity and explore science!
This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Actions, and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell and Aurélia Durand
When watching Flora & Ulysses, it was easy to see the difference made when an adult listens to kids. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen in real life. From School Strikes for Climate Change to Black Lives Matter marches and students still protesting for gun reform to stop school shootings, kids are desperate to be heard with about half of the adults listening to them. This Book is Anti-Racist is exactly what it says on the cover. More importantly, it is a guide for empowering young people who don’t know how to speak up to the racist adults in their life. While this book is there to support children of colour to stand up against racists, it can also be a great book for encouraging every person to speak up against all discrimination.
What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions By Randall Munroe
Now we’re talking with some of the older kids, or at least the kids with a bit more scientific nuance than most. Munroe once worked at NASA as a roboticist and has an amazing scientific and creative mind, both of which make his cartoon strip XKCD absolutely amazing! What if? was inspired by the multitude of questions from fans, asking him to help settle various scientific questions. “My friend and I were wondering, what would happen if…” — and thus Munroe brought them all together here. This here is a deep dive into the laws of science, depicted with clarity and insight that makes it a real joy to read.
Humble Pi: A Comedy of Maths Errors by Matt Parker
Okay, where are my maths nerds at? For every student who asked their Maths teacher, “when am I going to use this in the real world?” there was another student frantically taking notes because they knew the day would come when they would NEED this information. And we’re not talking big mathematical equations about String Theory. We’re talking about a misplaced decimal point and the collapse of the stock market. Or an extra nut causing the Kansas Hyatt Walkway Collapse in 1981. This is a collection of anecdotes and true stories from around the world, showing the importance of mathematics to prevent horrific errors in everyday life. After reading this, you will start triple-checking your spreadsheets.
Big Ideas for Young Thinkers: 20 Questions About Life and the Universe by Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippins
Not every question can be answered with geography facts or scientific analysis. Sometimes our questions are bigger than that. Sometimes, the ‘terrible things that can happen to you’ are things in our own community. Kids can ask the darndest things and often at the darndest times. That doesn’t make their questions any less relevant or the answers any easier. Wilson has taken the 20 biggest questions and layered the conversation with real-life examples from a range of thinkers and luminaries. Spread across five core sections (Identity, Life, Truth, Culture, and Creativity), Wilson has found a path to connect kids with their growing curiousity in philosophy and the world around them. There are no promises of answers here but if you really want to prepare kids for any terrible thing that happens, this is the book to help them think of solutions.
Words are power and facts are comforting. Flora & Ulysses is already an entertaining story but Flora’s character is truly rounded out with her passion for Terrible Things That Can Happen To You. So, until DiCamillo writes this book into our reality, make the most of the list we already have.