It's the Journey Not the Destination by Carl Honore; illustrated by Kevin and Kristen Howdesell (Magic Cat 2022)
Slow Down and Be Here Now by Laura Brand; illustrated by Freya Hartas (Magic Cat 2022)
Life goes fast these days. As technology develops at a lightning-speed pace and the relentless busy-ness of the day threatens to overwhelm, many of the joys of taking the time to appreciate the moment and breathe can be easily overlooked. For out youngest readers, this is something that more than ever needs to be noted: their childhood - a precious, wide-eyed wonder - could slip by without a moment's notice, and how sad it would be to miss that.
I have sung the praises of Magic Cat elsewhere on this blog and on Twitter; I've even used their website to inspire my class in their own publishing house ethos and manifesto! The books they are producing have a very timely relevance and both It's the Journey Not the Destination and Slow Down and Be Here Now are no exceptions.
Mindfulness is something of which many children nowadays are aware. There are shelves of related colouring books available in shops, guides to techniques and music tracks for them to listen to. But what I love about these two Magic Cat books is that they tap into something very deep - almost primal - that many of us adults even are likely to forget: the taking of time to experience our world fully.
Armchair travellers will delight in It's the Journey Not the Destination, as they take the time to laze slowly by on the river Cam, or cycle along the Silk Road to appreciate the historical significance of this time-worn trail. The prose is hypnotic and poetic, and casts a magical spell all of its own. The 'journeys' cascade one into the other, so we can be transported from the mysteries of Stonehenge to the equally extraordinary Macchu Pichu in the whisper of a turned page.
A children book such as this that covers 'slow journeys' the whole world over, whether on foot or by train or by bike, is always going to be an inspiration to those young, imaginative readers: a whole lifetime of exploration could be mapped out just from reading this book. And I mean exploration not only of the very real kind of physical landscapes presented here, but also (and perhaps even more key for young readers) of the imaginative world that reading gifts us all.
In Slow Down and Be Here Now, we are invited to watch - no, observe - Nature go about its daily routines, just as our ancient ancestors would have done. Indeed, the symbiotic relationships between Human life and the world around them are something that has always played a vital part to our survival. Whether you choose or not nowadays to 'Examine an Earthstar Mushroom as it blooms' or 'Watch a Frog catch a fly', these tiny-but-massive rhythms of life happen every day, the cycles of life continuous and reviving. How much more appreciative of the world would the next generation be, and how much more caring, if they were to notice! This book, using highly accessible but also expertly scientific language with gloriously warm illustrations to boot, helps them to do just that.
Far, far more than being yet another book on animals or geography, both books are superbly designed to be shared and discussed and really are a truly wonderful gift to any young person. Their uniqueness really does excite me about further books from Magic Cat. Ideal for sharing between parent/teacher and child, the prose reads aloud beautifully in both books and the short double page spreads, allowing one journey or one natural phenomenon, are perfect for a little reading and a lot of talk and connection. They both look completely individual and enticing, with a highly attractive quality of illustration. In short, these are very special reads indeed.
It's the Journey Not the Destination is available now from all good bookshops. Slow Down and Be Here Now can be preordered now; it will be published on 29th September 2022.