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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

hello! hello! Written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Disney Hyperion Books, Hachette. 2012. $17.99 ages 3 and up


Before even laying our eyes on the title page, we have a small inkling for the message this book is about to impart...and an important wake-up call it is!

As the tiny redheaded girl makes her way from bedroom to den, we watch her toss her game console, her laptop and her cell phone...and then she checks out the TV, to find it's showing a rerun. Turn the page and there she stands surrounded by a plethora of unsatisfying technology. Only now is our attention given to the title page, consisting of a whole lot of white space, and the two hellos. It offers an open invitation to come in and see what happens!

As she wanders the house in search of company, she finds her mother at her laptop, her father texting, her brother playing games on a tablet. None pays any attention to her greeting. From afar, she notices a floating leaf at the front door and is inquisitive enough to follow it outside...where there is much to discover.

Matthew Cordell's ability to tell his story through his use of 'a bamboo pen and India ink, a bit of pencil, a Macintosh computer, a large format waterproof inkjet printer, and watercolor on paper' is testament to his formidable talent and his love of story.  Hello is the message, and few other words are needed as he focuses always on the heroine. As she moves to the outdoors, bright color and the senses take her further and further from home. Her imagination runs wild, and she escapes the humdrum for the wild beauty of nature run amok. She talks to bugs, smells flowers, and revels in the wonder she finds there. When the horse she says hello to talks back, we know we are in for a ride. Off they go and are joined by flying fish and whales, apes, chickens, mice and giraffes. Their run comes to an abrupt halt with the interruptive ringing of her cell phone.

Where is she? The family has noticed her absence. Her parents are frantic. She is contrite. She quickly returns to the grey, drab interior of her home, bringing natural gifts to each family member. As she presents these gifts, she gingerly takes and closes down the technology...color returns! Off they go together to discover what lies just beyond their front door.

When asked whether the idea for this book was from personal experience, Matthew Cordell had this to say:

"I was being that guy who was glued to the device. At home one day, I was playing with my daughter, Romy, who was around 2 years old at that time—too young to know if I was giving her my complete attention. Or so I thought… In the middle of playing with some toys, I thought I would be fine sneaking over to a nearby laptop computer to check my email (or worse… my Facebook page). After a minute or two of having my face stuck to the screen, I heard Romy say from across the room, “Dada, stop checking email and come play.” She was a very verbal young toddler, and I knew she was putting together sentences, but I had no idea she knew the word “email.” I felt bad, in a way, that, already, she even knew that word, but worse that I was not giving her what she wanted because I chose to be selfish at that moment. Whatever I was doing, work or not, it could’ve waited until later when my wife was going to be taking over toddler duty. Later on, it occurred to me that with the amount of technology we are exposed to these days, this whole scenario must be playing out with parents and kids everywhere and all the time. The movable laptop at home is certainly distraction enough. But it is worse with the omnipresent smart phone that follows you everywhere you go, always beckoning to be looked at. At this point, in our culture, you cannot go anywhere without seeing someone in the company of another who is attending more to a device than to the person sitting at his or her side."

Does it give you pause?

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