Written and Illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Disney Hyperion Books, 2012
The plot in a nutshell: A girl has trouble communicating with her family.
Lydia says ‘hello’ to her mother, who is typing on a laptop. She greets her father, who is typing on a smart phone. Her brother is playing a game on a tablet. Suddenly a leaf blows in the front door and she follows it outside to say ‘hello’ to it. She finds herself talking to a bug and a flower and then the whole world. She meets a horse (who calls her by name) and goes riding and finds herself surrounded by all kinds of animals and creatures, coming to say hello to her. Then her phone rings and it’s her parents, calling her to come home. She brings home a little of the world for each person in her family and they all go outside together to explore.
Author/illustrator Matthew Cordell beautifully walks the line here between conveying a message and telling a story and he succeeds with both. The message does not come across as heavy-handed anti-technology, especially since we see Lydia’s parents reaching her via phone when they don’t know where she’s gone. Instead, it’s pro-reality, serving as a reminder to step away from the screens to be with your family and do things together in the real world. At least, that’s what I take away from it. I try to stay unplugged when I’m around my family or enjoying special events with friends, but sometimes it’s too easy to plug back in and miss out on what’s right in front of you.
The artwork tells the bulk of the story here and it does so in lots of different ways. Mr. Cordell uses pencil, pen and ink, watercolor and a computer to create the illustrations. As Lydia is trying to engage her family, they are all shown in monochromatic gray and the text is in large blocky letters, like numbers on a digital clock. But when the action moves to the outside world, the font changes to a casual handwritten font and all the animals have fonts of their own. When she returns with leaves and flowers for them, her family members show up in full color, too. It’s simple, but the imagery really works and gets the message across wonderfully.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that we have lots of cool devices these days, but they’re no substitute for the real world or a connection with the people in our lives.