Review of Stoic Children's Book I'm Not as Fast as a Cheetah
Updated: Aug 3, 2021
As an author, Jeff Rout, an Albertan father of two, has a lot of versatility. He has written books about finance, sales, and philosophy. Interestingly, in 2020, he wrote a children's book based on Stoic principles entitled I'm Not as Fast as a Cheetah. The book was illustrated by Arlene Ouellette, and her images are reminiscent of simplistic cartoons of my childhood. Arthur is a show that comes to mind.
The book has a lot of repetition and places emphasis on the Stoic idea that the best thing we can do is to be good moral agents that interact virtuously in the world. There are situations in the book where the main character, the red panda, notices that other animals can choose whether to use their natural abilities for good deeds or bad deeds.
From my experience as an educator, when I read this book, I immediately noticed that the content included something that has diminished from the curriculum in many public and private schools: character education. It is a far-cry from many children's books that simply tell children that people are diverse. I'm Not as fast As a Cheetah pushes further; in addition to teaching that others are diverse, it teaches kids that different people have different strengths and weaknesses that can be used for positively or negatively. This important additional insight shows kids the importance of resilience and moral responsibility.
As a millennial, I remember growing up and hearing my parents tell me, "Son, you can be anything you want to be." Even though I felt empowered at the time when I heard that (which may have been the intension), looking back, I think that statement was almost certainly false. There are natural limitations to some things that we wish to do in life. However, contrary to the implication of the sentiment surrounding my parents' sentiment, it is OK if we have these limitations! This is the unescapable truth of the physics of our universe (which the Stoics would agree with). The great thing about the message in I'm Not as Fast as a Cheetah is that, even with these natural limitations, we can still be good people with our particular skills.
Apart from Stoicism specifically, the book is a great way to introduce children to philosophy. Just imagine what kinds of bed-time conversations you can have! "What does 'acting good' mean?" "Why is it not good to act bad?" "What is Kant's categorical imperative?" OK, maybe not that last one.
If you are a parent who wants to teach children about how to do good in a world full of differences, I definitely recommend I'm Not as Fast as a Cheetah for readers from kindergarten through second grade. The book is great for a read-aloud as well as an independent reading book.
You can purchase the book through Amazon here.