Meet Doug. He’s a robot. He’s a young robot whose parents want him to be the smartest robot ever. His robot mom and robot dad accomplish this by plugging in Doug for lengthy downloads full of facts and figures.
We first met Doug in Doug Unplugged, published in 2013. In this book, Doug’s parents plug him in to learn about the city before they head off to work. Doug is happy to learn a bunch of facts about the city, but a pigeon on the windowsill makes him feel something he doesn’t often feel—curiosity—and when he reaches for the pigeon, he unplugs himself. And suddenly, he’s free to explore and experience the city in a more meaningful way.
In Doug Unplugs on the Farm, Doug and his parents drive to visit his grandbots in the country. As they are still interested in Doug being the very smartest robot, his mom-bot and dad-bot plug him in to learn about the farms he’s driving past. He learns some neat facts (that my three kids liked, too):
• Cows need to be milked every day.
• Sheep tend to follow each other.
• A baby pig is called a piglet.
• Horses can pull plows.
His downloading is interrupted when a whole flock of sheep runs across the road, causing his dad-bot to veer into a ditch and for the whole family to become unplugged!
When he sees a farm girl runs across the road after her sheep, Doug understands that she needs help. Because he just learned about sheepdogs, he acted like one to help round up the sheep. As his parents try and figure out the car situation, Doug goes off to help the farm girl with her chores.
In other words, he heads into the farm to experience it in a real way. He learns even more by doing, not just downloading. For example:
• How to milk a cow (and that a cow’s tongue is rough!).
• Getting hay from the barn is prickly business.
• Apples come from trees; picking them is fun.
• Roosters can be a nuisance while gathering eggs.
He also made the connection to help out his parents: since a horse can pull a plow, could a horse also pull a car out of a ditch? In fact, YES! It can and this bay horse does.
Obvious to parents, but perhaps not so for little readers, Doug learns a whole lot not from words or books or downloads but from being there. Experiencing it. Using his senses. What a great message, especially as we parents start the school year, too, and have the chance to augment our children’s in-class learning: Unplug. Go outside and roam. There is so, so much to experience and learn.
I’m a big fan of Dan Yaccarino, the author/illustrator of this book, and I believe he’s struck gold again in this simple but important book. The “unplug!” message in this digital, social world is so very important. I hope his book inspires many to put their electronic devices away, go outside, and play, explore, laugh and experience the world right alongside their child.
The age range for this book is officially 5 through 9 years old, but my 3-year-old loved both Doug Unplugged and Doug Unplugs on the Farm. He might not fully understand the concept (especially as we don’t have the most digital of households) but Yaccarino’s artwork is cute and engaging, and his words are simple and accessible. I think the right age range is wider (and more impressive): 3 to 9 years.
Doug Unplugs on the Farm
By Dan Yaccarino
Knopf Books for Young Readers
Available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million!
MSRP: approximately $13
Ages: 5-9 years
Overall Rating: 5
(Scale: 1 low – 5 high)
Meet the Reviewer!
Kate Schwarz is a full-time mom and wife living in Great Falls, VA. In addition to reading to her three small children, Kate is a writer, distance runner, Crossfitter and blogger about raising kids with books at www.katesbookery.blogspot.com.