Unplugged: Ella Gets Her Family Back

Unplugged: Ella Gets Her Family Back

4.9 16
by Laura Pedersen, Penny Weber

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…  See more details below


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.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Mary Hynes-Berry
Tilbury Press has a commendably strong commitment to social justice and social-emotional issues. In this book, Ella is the youngest member of a bi-racial family suffering from too much technology and too little family face-to-face time; she is the one who does not want a phone of her own but wants more in-person conversation and play time. This is an important issue for contemporary families and Pedersen does her best to lay out the issues and to promote Ella as the one who brings about a solution. Unfortunately, the characters and the text end up feeling predictable. There is a sympathetic heart-to-heart with her parents after Ella absconds with everyone else's electronics. In the end, she agrees to give them back and the next morning everyone agrees to be "unplugged" Saturday mornings and Sunday nights. In my experience, the struggle to keep a proper balance is much more complicated. But at least this book raises important questions. Reviewer: Mary Hynes-Berry
School Library Journal
Gr 1�3—Ella's brother has no time for their game of hangman, her mother forgets to make a special breakfast, her sister is too busy to braid Ella's hair, and her father is glued to his laptop. Frustrated by her family's lack of together time due to excessive use of electronic devices, Ella gets mad, and then hatches a plan. She collects all the chargers and small electronic devices she can find. When her family members come looking for them, she tries to explain how she misses the time they used to spend together. They are not impressed. Her parents think she wants a cell phone and her siblings just want their stuff back. Ella tries again by telling her parents, "I just want my family back. I want things to be like they were before you all got so plugged in." Ella is surprised the next morning by a family breakfast sans electronics and a new plan for the Whitman-Diaz clan to be unplugged Saturday mornings and Sunday nights. Weber's illustrations clearly depict everyone's emotions and actions while accurately representing the text. The clever placement of unfinished hangman games throughout the book is a nice touch. The facile ending can be overlooked as the author addresses an important issue for today's families. This book is a good starting point to spark discussion and perhaps create change.—Catherine Callegari, Gay-Kimball Library, Troy, NH
Kirkus Reviews
In a flavorless alternative to Matthew Cordell's Hello! Hello! (2012), young Ella concocts a scheme to wean her distracted family from their digital devices. Ella comes down the stairs expecting promised blueberry waffles for breakfast, some fancy braiding from older sister Maya and a brisk round of Hangman from brother Carlos. None of this is forthcoming, as Mom is on the cell and hurrying off to work, Maya is texting friends as she dashes out, and Carlos is absorbed in a video game. Even Dad, hunched over his laptop, is only good for a vague two-fingered wave. All right, then: After school that afternoon, Ella determinedly scours the house for chargers and power cords and proceeds to hold them hostage--explaining "I just want my family back. I want things to be like they were before you all got so plugged in." In instant and unlikely capitulation, everyone smilingly agrees to breakfast together every morning from then on and regular "unplugged" time on weekends. Depicting a blandly smiling, biracial family in a comfortable suburban setting, Weber endows Ella with an appealingly shiny face and wildly curly hair, but other figures have frozen, sometimes off-kilter features. A timely premise, but young readers who think that Ella's strategy will work for them are in for an unpleasant surprise. (Picture book. 6-8)

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Product Details

Tilbury House Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.30(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.20(d)
AD690L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

What People are saying about this

Anne K. Fishel
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)
Ellen Galinsky
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)
Eileen Doyle
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)

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Meet the Author

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, and novels. Laura was a shy only child, and as a seventh grader realized that telling funny stories and jokes was a good way to make friends. As an adult, she has performed stand-up comedy and writes material 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.

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.
For Teachers Take Note suggestions for using this book in the classroom, please visit www.tilburyhouse.com.

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Unplugged: Ella Gets Her Family Back 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Emily06 More than 1 year ago
Terrific story for classrooms. When I read this to my first grade students I was amazed to discover how angry they are about siblings and parents being caught up in electronics and ignoring them. This will clearly be a big issue to wrestle with going forward and we need to think about ways to address it aside from just having UNPLUGGED days. An entire new arena of social etiquette with no set rules has emerged.
TheReaderPhilip More than 1 year ago
A riotous adventure featuring a charming protagonist that will be loved by both girls and boys (Ella has a slightly older brother and they give each other the usual sibling grief). Adults will also like UNPLUGGED because it brings to the fore the usage of electronic devices and at what point they interfere with out HUMAN relationships.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This may be the best book I've read in the last few months. I have 2 teenagers and , as much as I adore them, sometimes they really drive me crazy with their iPads, smart phones, laptops and everything else. Of course I'm partly to blame because I'm the one who purchased all of those electronics for them but, if I would have known how bad it was going to get, I might have thought twice before I did. In "Unplugged - Ella Gets Her Family Back" we find young Ella very frustrated with the fact that her brother doesn't want to play any real games with her or go outside, And it seems like the entire world is more interested in having "conversations" with people on their cell phones and tablets than they are in having real-life conversations with people who are right in front of their face. the book is very well written and younger children as well as pre-teens should easily identify with Ella and her brother and the situation that she's in. Author Laura Pederson must have children herself because she has a keen eye for the way they talk and act and the character of Ella is at once recognizable to me as an amalgamation of youngsters everywhere today, including mine. I really think that all children (and their parents) should read this book because it really says a lot about where we are right now as people and how much time we actually spend "semi-communicating" with people who don't really mean as much as our families should. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a little bit of insight into how children perceive the electronic craze that people in America, as well as the rest of the world, seem to be engaged in.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Managing our love of phones and other electronic devices seems to become more challenging every day. This book offers a great way to start a discussion about about the importance of relationships and how technology fits into our life. It's here to stay but what we do about it is up to us, especially if we start to make children aware of pros, cons and social etiquette at a young age. Some parents may even want to re-think their own usage patterns after asking how the kids are impacted.
book4children More than 1 year ago
I love it when books exceed my expectations. And this one did. Surprisingly, the story didn't come off as overly preachy. It was well written and concise. I love the idea of unplugging from devices at mealtime so that the family can connect. I also love the way Ella confronts her problems head on instead of waiting for someone else to do it for her. The illustrations were okay. I didn't hate them, but I didn't absolutely love them either. I really didn't have strong feelings about the artwork either way.
This_Kid_Reviews_Books More than 1 year ago
Ella misses spending time with her family. Everyone seems to be ignoring each other because they are all plugged in to whatever electronic thing they have. Her brother has his video games, her dad has his computer and her mom and sister have their phones. Ella has had enough and decides to unplug her family! Why I liked this book – I love the message of this book! It is well-told in the story. I like Ella’s cleverness and creativity. She probably has it because she is not plugged in! All families should read this book and learn from the message given in it – spend more time with each other! I like the illustrations! The expressions on the faces of the characters are really life-like. I like all the small details in the illustrations. This is a great book with an awesome storyline! I recommend this book to kids 5+ *NOTE I got a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
_c_r_y_s_t_a_l_ More than 1 year ago
What a great book to read to the children I babysit! A fresh take on sibling rivalry and learning how to put down the electronic devices; Unplugged really held the 5, 6, and 8 year old girls captive as I read to them. Well written and a very cute read, Laura Pederson did a wonderful job! One of the girls wanted to go buy the book for her own, and especially loved the cover design. You follow Ella as she starts to feel her family become distant while using their cells phone, computers, and Ipods. We all loved how the story was up to modern times! Holding true with many families, Ella urged everyone to spend more one on one time instead of being so 'plugged' in. I would suggest this book to any young girl or boy, and to mom's and teachers as well!
MFleming2 More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It is especially relevant in current times. We are so caught up in front of our computer screens without realizing how it's tearing up our relations with other people. This book will provide a gentle reminder of how we can strengthen our family relationships and cope with all the gadgetry available to us in a positive way. I gave this book to my daughter and she loved it as well. This is a great book for both adults and children (and schools too!), and sets up positive examples for both. Highly recommended! Don't miss out on this funny and enjoyable story which will enlighten you on the good manners in a networked world.
LaShonda More than 1 year ago
CLASSROOM HIT: My third graders, both boys and girls, loved Ella and her electronic adventures. We had a wonderful discussion about the role of devices in our lives and how it makes us feel about our relationships when others are regularly distracted. I highly recommend the FREE TEACHER'S GUIDE that can be found online to discuss this story with individual children or children in groups. This is a book for which parents, teachers, counselors and librarians will find many uses. My kids are still talking about grownups who are glued to phones and computers. I was amazed at how aware they are of "divided attention." If you have an UNPLUGGED week at your school, like we do, you'll want to kick it off with Laura Pedersen's smart and funny story.
Meddie More than 1 year ago
I love the idea behind this book! Ella's frustration is common place with all the tech stuff  that takes over everyone's lives. This book made me smile and  my daughter loved it so much she has read it to her Dad and I 3 times!
MomsChoiceAwards More than 1 year ago
Unplugged: Ella Gets Her Family Back is a recipient of the prestigious Mom's Choice Award. The Mom’s Choice Awards honors excellence in family-friendly media, products and services. An esteemed panel of judges includes education, media and other experts as well as parents, children, librarians, performing artists, producers, medical and business professionals, authors, scientists and others. A sampling of the panel members includes: Dr. Twila C. Liggett, ten-time Emmy-winner, professor and founder of PBS’s Reading Rainbow; Julie Aigner-Clark, Creator of Baby Einstein and The Safe Side Project; Jodee Blanco, New York Times best-selling Author and; LeAnn Thieman, motivational speaker and coauthor of seven Chicken Soup For The Soul books. Parents and educators look for the Mom’s Choice Awards seal in selecting quality materials and products for children and families.
smaddux More than 1 year ago
A WINNER It's always better when kids get a message from a fun character facing a dilemma rather than parents and teachers. UNPLUGGED is a terrific tool to get kids thinking and making good decisions about the role technology plays in their lives, especially with regard to family and friendships. It's also a good reminder to the adults in a child's life that we're constantly setting an example with our own behavior. Energetic, warm illustrations with nice diversity.
Timely_Reviews More than 1 year ago
A clever story with engaging characters and the kind of mischief my kids love. UNPLUGGED is a much needed reminder for readers of all ages that good manners include good social etiquette when it comes to all of our many electronic devices. And the most important example is set by parents and older siblings.
ChuckGallagher More than 1 year ago
A fun, fast-paced story with believable characters. Kids will love Ella and her family, especially video-playing brother Carlos. However, the underlying message about not letting tehcnology take over our lives is timely and necessary.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago