Saturday, January 11, 2020

Review - Babbit & Joan, a Rabbit and a Phone

Babbit & Joan, a Rabbit and a Phone
by Denise Turu
Date: 2020
Publisher: Flyaway Books
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 40
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

Sometimes friends are best off with a little time apart. That’s true for Babbit, a rabbit, and Joan, his phone. Yet Babbit has never left Joan at home before. Does he dare go out on a solo excursion? How will he know what to do? What if he gets lost?

This charming, low-tech tale reveals that a small adventure can open up big possibilities—for seeing new places, meeting new friends, and coming home to share all about it.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

On the one hand, this book has a good message overall. On the other hand, it's disturbing that the message is needed for this age group, and the way the book anthropomorphizes devices and implies that inanimate objects are our friends could ultimately work against the message.

One day, the phones are feeling overworked so they go on strike. Babbit (a rabbit, of course) decides to let his friend, Joan (a phone, of course), have a break, so he puts her to bed for a nap and ventures out into the world. Of course, he promptly gets lost without Joan's help. But while he's out in the forest trying to find his way back, he meets other creatures who are lost because their phones are lost or broken. As they make their way back to civilization, they see all sorts of things they didn't notice when they had their noses buried in their devices. When they part ways, they make plans to meet up again. Babbit returns to Joan, who is feeling refreshed. Then they go to sleep, each tucked in their own beds.

So, like I said, the overall message of putting down your phone and getting outside to explore is a good one. But then Babbit returns home to Joan, who is anthropomorphized to the point of seeming like a roommate, and that just throws a wrench into the message. If Babbit were to just abandon Joan in the woods, it would probably be better for him in the long run. But because she's been so heavily anthropomorphized, any act like that would look cruel. If we really want kids to detach from their devices, it's probably not the best idea to convince them the phone is their best friend.

The pictures are colourful and appealing, and the writing is decent, so this is a fairly inoffensive picture book overall. But I'm afraid that, for kids who are already really addicted to their phones, this book isn't going to help much... and, in fact, could reinforce the idea that it's our devices that foster connection (while also confusingly showing the opposite).

Thank you to NetGalley and Flyaway Books for providing a digital ARC.

Premise: 3/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 3/5

Enjoyment: 2/5

Overall: 2.67 out of 5

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