Author: Dr. John Hutton
Illustrator: Andrea Kang
Year published: 2012
Publisher: blue manatee press
Number of pages: 14
Recommended age: 0-2 years
Mom Rating: ★★★★☆
Reviewed by: Renee (Just Mom)
Summary (from back of book): Designed by a pediatrician, Baby Unplugged ™ celebrates icons of childhood, rooted in how developing brains work. Kids need and learn best through real experiences, real people and exploring the real world – simple joys these provide. Technology can wait. Unplug, tune in, and have fun!
Well, I would have to ask my kids to channel their inner baby/toddler to review these books. I did read all three books to them and they both said the exact same thing: “These books are for babies!!” Ok, point taken so Mom is going solo on this one.
What I liked and disliked: When I was asked by Dr. John Hutton’s publicist if I wanted to review this (and two other books, Blanket and Box), my initial reaction was that the books were not a good fit for my kids. These books target babies and toddlers, not 6 and 9 year olds. But then I read more about the history and intention behind these books and I was sufficiently curious. Let me share with you a bit about the Baby Unplugged series:
Written by pediatrician and father of three, Dr. John S. Hutton (he also owns a children’s bookstore), Baby Unplugged is a celebration of “old-school” experiences and icons of childhood; educational not as an overt means to some baby/toddler academic end, but as a natural byproduct of a child’s desire to play and connect with people and the world. They are an antidote to the legions of screen-based curricula and gadgets marketed to make children smarter, faster, often contrary to normal development, with no evidence of efficacy. They are also fun, rhyming reads with beautiful illustrations by artist Andrea Kang.
To-date there are seven books in the series -Pets, Yard, and Blanket were the first three out, with Book, Box, Beach, and Ball all just released mid – June. The series was a winner of a Mom’s Choice Awards Gold Medal and was named a Creative Child Magazine Book of the Year. In addition to the series, Dr. Hutton writes a supporting blog at www.babyunplugged.com.
In short, I like the concept behind these books and the message that we need to move kids away from a reliance on gadgets and toys for props and back to the use of everyday items such as books, blankets, and boxes to encourage more imaginary play. This really resonates with me as I see, for example, Lego™ sets with detailed instruction on how to build specific objects. In some ways, this really limits the way you can play with Lego™ and it can stifle creativity. Remember when you had a big pile of (much less expensive) Lego™ and you could build whatever you wanted from those pieces? Now, you can buy a Lego™ Star Wars Death Star for $400!! [Or for some people, you can buy groceries for a month…I’m just sayin’.]
The books themselves have colourful, kid-friendly illustrations showing kids interacting with boxes or blankets in creative ways or re-creating some of the images from books they read through daydreaming or play acting. For example, in Box, you see children using boxes as cars, turtles, train cars, robots, kitchen appliances, and even as a little house for a pet. One little comment about Blanket is that there is reference to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. My kids had no clue who they were, but I do believe it’s important to teach kids about historical figures from across the globe, so it was not a big issue.
The text consists of rhyming verse and as you probably know by now, I am a big fan (and slightly in awe) of rhyming in kids books. For the most part, the rhyming is ok, but there are a few sections where there is a lack of cadence. You only really discover this as you try to read it aloud and try keep a rhythmic flow. Try this for example (from Book):
Turn the page – what comes next?
Farmyard friends? Princess? Tyrannosaurus rex?
See what I mean?
I do have to comment on the packaging. The three books were shipped to me in a rather large box (for the size of the books) called the Unplugged Blue Manatee Box. The idea behind the box is that the books are shipped in a 100% eco-friendly (compostable, locally sourced) box containing the following eco-friendly items (edited Nov. 22): the books that you ordered, a personalized gift enclosure with original artwork (i.e., sheets of paper with a message for the child, some artwork, and ideas for how to use the box), a crayon, packing peanuts, and a sponge.
I understand that the concept of the Unplugged Blue Manatee builds on the company’s mantra of focusing on tech-free play, but given the price point of the books ($30 for 3 books; $55 for 6 books; $80 for 9 books) I’m not sure the value added by the box and the items in the box is there. When we opened the box and saw what was inside, my daughter (who is our family’s reduce, recycle, reuse expert) said, “What a waste!” My kids play with boxes all the time and we just go to our local supermarket and get however many we want from the back for free. Further, while the shipping appears to be free in the U.S., in Canada there is the added shipping and handling charge of about $25.
My bottom line: I do need to stress that I don’t have kids in the age range of the target audience. Perhaps a younger child may be thrilled at receiving a box with books, a personalized message, and props inside. I think that the intention and concept behind the books is fantastic and the books themselves are enjoyable, but I’m not sold on the Blue Manatee Boxes. You can visit their website to take a look (www.bluemanateeboxes.com) or you can buy individual books on Amazon. My rating is based on the books, not the boxes, and I would recommend the books to toddlers aged 0 to 2.
Baby Unplugged: Book, Blanket, and Box were provided to us by the publisher free-of-charge in exchange for our honest review.
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