Ella is really frustrated. Lately it seems like the whole family has forgotten how to be together. Instead of playing Hangman and making waffles, everyone is talking on cell phones, playing video game
Ella is really frustrated. Lately it seems like the whole family has forgotten how to be together. Instead of playing Hangman and making waffles, everyone is talking on cell phones, playing video games, and using the computer. What's a girl to do?
When Ella finally makes her move, it gets everyone's attention. At first there is some confusion—could Ella just want a cell phone of her own? But Ella makes clear that what she really wants is her family back. Will they all agree that it's time to make some changes? And what word do you think Ella will use the next time she plays Hangman with her brother Carlos? This is a lively book about the issue of managing technology so that it can become more family friendly.
View Biographical note
Laura Pedersen was the youngest columnist for the New York Times. Prior to that she was the youngest person to have a seat on the floor of the American Stock Exchange and wrote her first book, Play Money, about that experience. President Clinton honored Laura as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans, and she has gone on to write award-winning short stories, nonfiction, plays and novels. She has appeared on shows such as CNN, Oprah, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Primetime, and David Letterman. Laura has performed stand-up comedy and writes for several well-known comedians. This is her first children's book. Laura lives in New York City and teaches at the Booker T. Washington Learning Center in East Harlem. Her website is www.laurapedersenbooks.com
Penny Weber has worked as a mural painter, greeting-card illustrator, and portrait artist. Her children's books include One of Us, On My Way To School, Amazingly Wonderful Things, and Growing Up with a Bucket Full of Happiness. Penny lives on Long Island in New York with her husband and three children and their cat Tiger. Her website is www.pennyweberart.com
View Review text
"Laura Pedersen's Unplugged is a delightful book about the importance of face-to-face family time. Parents today need to model a balanced approach to technology use, but our children, like Ella in this timely story, know how essential it is to have a chance to talk, play games, and eat together."
—Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D., co-author of "The Digital Family," PsychologyToday.com, and Associate Clinical Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School
"Being tethered to our screens 24/7 is of huge societal concern to children, families and teachers. It seems insolvable but it isn't! In an inspired and inspiring example of 'taking on challenges,' Laura Pedersen's Unplugged shows how a child comes up with a solution that gives her and her family what our studies show they want most—time to be together and have fun."
—Ellen Galinsky, President, Families and Work Institute, and author of Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills That Every Child Needs
"Busy families may forget the value of just spending time together—a chance to talk, connect, play games, and enjoy one other. Laura Pedersen's Unplugged shows how easily a family can be derailed from that special time together and suggests a solution that is a good fit for everyone."
—Eileen Doyle, Vice President of Program, Girl Scouts of the USA
View Description for teachers/educators
Ella is really frustrated. Lately it seems like the whole family has forgotten how to be together. Instead of playing hangman and making muffins, everyone is talking on cell phones, playing video games, and using the computer. What's a girl to do?
When Ella finally makes her move, it gets everyone's attention. At first there is some confusion—does Ella just want a cell phone of her own? But Ella makes it clear that what she really wants is her family back.
Laura Pedersen has written a timely story that will get everyone talking about his or her feelings on the impact of technology on family life. Penny Weber's warm, contemporary illustrations add a distinctive dimension to the story.
Unplugged could prompt conversations about:
Finding positive ways to deal with feelings of frustration.
Family rituals and traditions—what they are, how they get started, and why they are important.
The differences between rules and rituals in family life.
Different rules that families may have about digital devices.
Kid-initiated vs. parent-initiated rules.
Ways that technology can improve life for us, and the ways it creates new challenges.
Basic Internet safety and privacy issues.
Non-technology games and activities families can play together.
Additional Picture Books
The picture books below are included because they would complement the ideas explored in Unplugged: Ella Gets Her Family Back.
When Sophie Gets Angry—Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang (Blue Sky Press, 1999)
A picture book about dealing with a hard emotion in a positive way. Ages 4-8
Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones (Candlewick Press, 2011)
A great book for teaching the difference between wants and needs. Ages 4-6
Blackout by John Rocco (Hyperion, 2011)
When the power goes out, the TV won't work or the phone or the computer or the stove, so a city family goes up to the roof—and sees the stars. They even have time to play a board game together!
Every Friday by Dan Yacarrino (Turtleback Press, 2012)
A book about a family ritual. This story celebrates family togetherness. Ages 4-6
Henry Hikes to Fitchburg by D. B. Johnson (Sandpiper, 2006)
A picture book that examines what money can and cannot buy and encourages slowing down to experience nature. Ages 4-8
Additional Resources on Technology and the Lives of Kids
Talking Back to Facebook by James P. Steyer (Scribner, 2012)
A timely look at how digital media is affecting our children's social, emotional, and cognitive development. Streyer is founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, the nation's leading advocacy organization for kids and media, and a founding board member of the Center for the Next Generation, a nonpartisan organization supporting programs and policies that benefit the next generation of young Americans.
Alone Together by Sherry Turkle (Basic Books, 2011)
MIT technology and society professor explores the power of our new tools and toys to dramatically alter our social lives. It's a nuanced exploration of what we are looking for—and sacrificing—in a world of electronic companions and social networking tools, and an argument that, despite the hand-waving of today's self-described prophets of the future, it will be the next generation who will chart the path between isolation and connectivity.
Activity: Emotion Charades (Drama)
Make a list of emotion vocabulary words and post it on the wall or board. Explain the game of charades to the students, and invite them to take turns acting out emotions for the class to guess.
Activity: Perfect Day (Art / Social Studies / Technology)
Invite children to make a drawing or write a paragraph describing what they would do on their "perfect day." It could anything from eating ice cream, to going to an amusement park to going to the beach with friends.
Have everyone take a close look at each group of drawings.
Discuss the differences between each child's "perfect day" scenarios.
Explore ways the scenarios might be experienced from a child's perspective versus an adult's perspective.
What general themes can they see in the drawings from a student's/child's perspective?
What general themes can they see in the drawings from an adult's perspective?
Finally, observe how many of the perfect day scenarios involve the use of technology!
Activity: Perfect Day (Math Skills / Technology)
Do the Perfect Day activity above and follow up by making a large graph for class use to chart how many of the Perfect Day scenarios include the use of technology. Discuss the role of technology in daily life.
Activity: Perfect Day (Diversity / Cultural Awareness)
Do the Perfect Day activity above and imagine if and how these scenarios might be in different cultural groups.
Activity: Family Traditions and Technology (Art / Social Studies / Technology)
Does Ella want a cell phone? If not, why not? Discuss what matters more to Ella.
Ask the group to discuss what fun traditions Ella misses and then discuss what traditions students may have in their own families. If children aren't able to identify any, have them make up one or two.