By Rachel Williams, illustrated by Freya Hartas. Magic Cat Publishing, 2020. 128 pages. $24.99/hardcover; $18.65/eBook. Recommended for ages 8–12.
Slow Down is a series of 50 illustrated two-page spreads on which brief, scientifically accurate information is given on subjects as varied as ladybugs, thunderstorms, and snakes shedding their skins. Each topic has five to twelve illustrations with carefully edited text, which draws the reader into a life cycle or natural process, be it snowflake formation, or egg-tadpole-frog development, or the physics of lightning or ocean waves.
We found the illustrations a bit cartoonish, sometimes a mismatch with the serious science. However, the layout is excellently done, so that each spread has an appropriate and unique format with informal fonts that feel like one’s reading a naturalist’s sketchbook.
While mindfulness is promoted in the introductory poem, “Leisure” by W. H. Davies, this thread is overtly picked up only in the last summary spread, “Slow Down Today.” Sinking into any one of the 50 topics cannot be done in haste. First-day school teachers could choose a subject each week for meditation and discussion.
A great use might be as a starting-off point for school-age children to choose a subject on which to do further research: an endeavor promoted by the good reference list at the end. Students could be challenged to create two-page spreads on topics not covered in Slow Down, perhaps something common to their locality or places they have visited.
The book features only temperate zones and mostly European and North American flora and fauna: no desert, arctic, or tropic biomes are represented. A remedy for this lack can be found in Nature’s Patchwork Quilt by Quaker environmental educator Mary Miché; a habitat-based series, such as the One Small Square books by Donald M. Silver; or the One Day in the . . . books by Jean Craighead George.
Tom and Sandy Farley are authors and illustrators of the Earthcare for Children curriculum and members of Palo Alto (Calif.) Meeting.