Technology is one giant irony in our world today. It’s supposed to bring us closer-right? With cell phones we can talk to people just about anywhere, texting-you can even contact someone when they wouldn’t be able to actually talk on the phone! Social media like Facebook or Twitter allows us to connect with anyone we want all over the world literally within seconds… yes, these changes in communication are surely destined to bring us closer.
Sadly, we’re becoming the opposite of closer, for there is always too much of a good thing. All the above and more makes for less and less direct human contact. It’s simply the human condition-we may have good intentions, but we begin to lose touch with reality when we immerse ourselves in the world of technology. Our kids and grandkids are, obviously, very susceptible to this. We remember the days before all this tech hit, but they don’t-so it’s up to us to teach them about finding a good balance in lifestyles.
In my opinion, there is no better way to combat the anarchy of screen time than with a good, solid book-and if said book has a message that happens to convey the importance of staying connected to the natural world, so much the better. In “hello! hello! by Matthew Cordell, we find a story and a character that will serve as a lesson and reminder to our young ones just how important it is to keep in touch with the real world-and I don’t mean via text messaging.
Mom? Dad? Hellooooooooo!
The story begins with a little redheaded girl talking to her mother, who sits furiously typing away at her keyboard. The whole scene, save the vibrant little girl, is drab and gray. The dialogue is written in the blocky machine issued font that is so often seen on things like digital clocks.
“Hello, Mom.” The little girl says
“Hello.” Her mom replies, not bothering to look up.
The story continues in a similar manner with the girl talking to her dad, who is on his phone, and then (presumably) her brother Bob, who won’t look up from his touchscreen device.
Then it appears the girl has a rather curious thought, inspired by a little orange leaf blowing in the front door…
She opens the door then, steps outside, and “hello…leaf” the clearly handwritten words say as she plucks one out of the air. Carrying on with her outdoor adventure, the world becomes filled with color and life, until it seems like all the creatures on earth are surrounding her. The sharp ringing of a cell phone then rudely interrupts, and she must return to her irritated (still grey) parents. Their words are still machine-issued, until the girl gifts them with a leaf, and a flower. Even Bob gets something.
Stepping outside, everything goes from gloomy to color, mechanical to handwritten. And the little girl and her family? Let’s just say it was like they were finally, truly, saying ‘hello’ to each other for the first time in a long time.
What Are The Illustrations Like?
The story is told through the art, with just the few words to emphasize the point. The illustrations are hand-drawn in ink with a bamboo pen, and the color added with old-fashioned watercolor. It’s simply lovely. The contrast between the hand-written text and the rigid mechanical text throughout the story is incredibly clever, and says more in one or two words than an entire thesis on our interaction with the natural world could. The effect of this on the reader is, in my opinion, quite powerful.
Put quite simply, get outside and away from your computers, phones, touchpads, and so on. Life is not half as colorful as it could be when all you do is stare at a screen- no matter how many HD pixels it may have.
Some books push their message too hard, but “hello! hello!” hit just the right chord. It doesn’t overwhelm us-it just gives us a gentle nudge out the door and into the real world. Technology has its perks without a doubt, but let us not forget to teach our kids that it is vital to stay connected- and not through any form of technology. The illustrations are gorgeous, it’s an entertaining read, and it has a good theme to boot. I would highly recommend it.
There’s a billboard I love that I think is fitting to mention due to the nature of this book (no pun intended.) On one half of the board, it shows a close up of a child’s hands tapping touchscreen device that is displaying a cartoony green frog, catching flies. On the other half of the board, it shows a child’s muddy hands, cupping a real green frog. Underneath it simply says “Unplug.”
Read on! If you enjoy this book, take a look at “Hug Time.”