Parents may be quick to admit their obsession with technology, but most hope their children won’t follow in their footsteps. In Matthew Cordell’s timely new picture book, hello! hello!, a young girl named Lydia finds herself immersed in electronic gadgets, but she is beginning to grow bored and lonely in this black-and-white, high-tech world. She greets her dad who is staring at his cell phone and her brother who is engrossed in a video game. Even her mother ignores her and taps away on a laptop keyboard. Lydia feels all alone, and she sighs in frustration.
Then, a leaf appears in front of her, and Lydia follows it outside to discover a brilliant, brightly colored world. She runs through flowers, meets a horse and rides through the wind with a whale, a buffalo and an octopus until—RING RING RING—her parents call her cell phone. But instead of returning home to stay in a stale house filled with electronics, Lydia swaps her mother’s computer for a leaf, her father’s cell phone for a flower and her brother’s video game for a butterfly. Hand in hand, the family walks outside together to say “hello” to the beautiful natural world outside their door.
Cordell uses few words to tell the story, instead using his distinctive pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations to convey Lydia’s delight in the beauty and bounty of nature. Inside the house, the electronics-obsessed family is sparsely drawn in black and white and their words are written in an old computer-style font. Outside are loose, handwritten words and color-filled pages, showcasing the beauty a child can find by stepping outside her door. Cordell’s hopeful story encourages children to play outside, while also challenging their parents to play with them, a reminder for all of us to take time to disconnect from work and gadgets and reconnect with nature and family.