Full disclosure. Yes, Dot. is one of those picture books written by a celebrity (business maven Randi Zuckerberg) to convey a particular lesson. I am not generally a fan of such books. This one is even kind of a spin-off of an adult title by the same author (Dot Complicated: Untangling Our Wired Lives), with the same release date. And yet, Dot. worked for me.
Dot. is a simple story. We learn that a little girl named Dot is quite skilled in the use of digital devices. "She knows how to tap ... to touch ... to tweet ... and to tag." And she talks and talks on phones and devices and webcams. But when Dot's brain becomes a bit fried from too much device-time, her mother sends the zombie-like child outside to "reboot." Outside, among friends, Dot learns different meanings of tap (tap dancing), touch (touching a sunflower), tweet (like a bird), and tag (you can guess that one). And at the end, she and her friends embrace both the outdoors and real togetherness AND devices.
I think that ending is a big part of what made the book work for me. If the story had ended with Dot realizing the error of her device-prone ways, and spending all of her time playing outside, well, it just wouldn't have been realistic. But it IS realistic to think that a child could get caught up sitting around inside, tapping away on the computer, only to be reminded that playing outside is fun also. Only to be reminded that it's more fun to do whatever you're doing with other kids than to do it alone.
By keeping the focus entirely on Dot, and finding a solution to her specific problem of tech burnout, Zuckerberg avoids making Dot. feel didactic. It helps, I think that Mom is only shown as a pair of hands shooing Dot outside. Otherwise, there are only kids, dogs, and butterflies.
I also quite liked the parallelism that Zuckerberg uses, between actions we do on devices, like "surfing", and actions that can be done in real life, like "surfing." Some of the examples work better than others ("swiping" paint seems a bit of a reach), but the idea of focusing on these dual meanings works.
Joe Berger's illustrations help, too. When Dot, in dotted dress, is "surfing" on the computer, she lies across the back of the couch with one leg up, reaching down to the computer. This is a nice visual clue to what is to follow later. The indoor illustrations are fun, but all set against plain backgrounds, white walls, etc. This provides a nice contrast when Dot goes outside, and is surrounded by birds, flowers, trees, and so on. I'm not quite sure why Dot has gray hair, but she also has an impish smile, a swirly skirt, and a cute dog.
I think that kids will like her. And if they like Dot, hopefully they won't feel dictated to by the point that this book is making. And let's face it. There are an awful lot of kids out there who could benefit from spending a few hours outside, where the only screen is the screen door. Mary Lee from A Year of Reading liked it, too, calling Dot."the perfect antidote to BYOD" (bring your own device).
I suspect this one will work better with five to seven year olds, kids who spend a bit of time using keyboards, and talking on the phone to friends or family members. My three year old was unimpressed. I think you'll find that Dot. is worth a look, particularly for libraries and classrooms. Perhaps one could pair it under the Christmas tree with a jumprope and some sneakers.
Publisher: HarperCollins (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: November 5, 2013
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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