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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Doug Unplugged, written and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. Alfred A. Knopf, Random House. 2013. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"It was a pigeon!
Doug had just learned that pigeons traveled in groups called flocks, but he didn't know they made such a funny cooing sound! He wondered if there were more things he could learn if he went out into the city. So....

Doug unplugged!"

What a different world my kids live in today! They are constantly bombarded with screens...the television, the computer, the cell phone and more and more often, handheld games and tablets. Even cameras (if you use one that is not on your phone or tablet) often have a screen to help ensure a clear and balanced photograph. Hoping not to date myself too badly, we didn't have a television until I was nearing my teens, our first home family computer came when the kids were in middle school and cost more than $3000, and I still don't have a tablet. We played outside from morning until night, and had the run of the neighborhood. We skated outdoors in winter, and swam at the local outdoor pool all summer. Our neighbor put his television set outside on the front lawn so all the kids on the street could watch The Roy Rogers Show.

All that blathering to tell you about Doug. Doug is a robot, you see. His parents only want what is best for him; so each morning they plug him in and while they are off at work, Doug is filled to the brim with data. His parents want him to be the 'smartest' and most informed robot and on the day we meet him, he is going to be learning everything there is to know about the city.

A full page, fact-filled infographic brings an awareness to readers of all there is for Doug to learn about his city. As the program runs, Doug sits blankly accepting all data. While there, he notices a pigeon outside the window. He knows about 'flocks'; he doesn't have a concept of 'cooing'. How can he learn about that? Why, he will have to use his senses! That requires unplugging and personal exploration...

There is so much to see and to truly discover about the world around him! Meeting a human is a totally new experience for Doug, and he is invited to 'play'. How does that work? We know that Doug is a quick learner as evidenced from the amount of data he can take in while his parents are at work. Can he learn about interacting with a child in a genuine play setting? Sure he can!

Fear not! Doug is never smug. He delights in each new sensory experience. Readers never get the feeling that he is trying to teach us a lesson, or suggest that we do as he has done. His adventure is sure to please young readers. From the cool tones of the indoors, Doug takes his bright yellow self to a much more colorful world...filled with intense reds and greens as he really learns about the city.
After the fun of finding a 'friend' and helping that friend find his parents who are lost, Doug returns home to share his most pleasing discovery of all...a hug!

And now it's up to you, to unplug and make some new discoveries of your own!

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