The Day the Screens Stood Still


Children - Picture Book
36 Pages
Reviewed on 05/02/2021
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite

The Day the Screens Stood Still written by R.L. Ullman and illustrated fabulously by Buhmi Loupito is a book all middle grade kids should read—and parents too. With all the blessings home computing has brought us, some bad things have come along. Like taking us away from the world and the people around us. This splendid picture book brings the point home. Sammy, a bright little boy, is fixated on the screen of his laptop, streaming cat videos (he has a dog named Howie but prefers looking at cats), playing games, and taking selfies—he’s really a cute kid and the selfies are great. Then, strangely, the screen goes off, not only for him but for his parents. But only for them, not their neighbors.

Then they freak out (like we all do when it happens to us). R.L. Ullman suggests the sadness of our screen dependence by showing the advantages of off-screen time in bringing us together with our natural surroundings, with our families and friends, and with people in need. It’s a well-taught lesson. Bhumi Loupito’s drawings are superbly eye-catching, especially Sammy’s many selfies. My favorite is Howie the dog’s hideout at the end. There are words that will stretch kids’ vocabulary too: permanent, freak-out, twitched, whiz, notice, epic, realized, and unexpected. But the best part is the message that the unexpected turns in life can bring new things into our awareness and that much enjoyment in life happens in places other than the internet. The Day the Screens Stood Still by R. L. Ullman and Buhmi Loupito teaches lessons not only kids but many adults should learn.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

We live in a world glued to one screen or another. It’s scary when you think about it. We are so dependent on technology that we’ve forgotten so many more important things – like how to really live. Sammy loved his screen. He loved searching for cat photos and taking selfies of himself. He spent hours on his screen. Until one day the screen froze. His parents’ screens froze, too. They all went into panic mode, not knowing what to do. A few days went by and they noticed others outside their home still using their screens, but not Sammy and his family. Remarkably, as they came down from the addiction, infused by the screens, the family started to notice things – like the birds and the clouds and that it was actually fun playing outside, running around, playing fetch with the dog, and smiling at passers-by. So, when the screen finally did go back on, what do you think happened? Can there be a healthy, happy balance between screen time and real life?

R.L. Ullman’s picture book story, The Day the Screens Stood Still, is a clever look at technology and today’s family. Whilst many of us remember parents being concerned about children spending too much time in front of the television, this new era has an entirely new screen that has literally kidnapped our minds, our creativity, and our joy in life itself. Technology was supposed to help make life easier; instead, technology has overtaken life. The plot evolves from a child’s perspective, beginning with Sammy’s screen freezing and the panic attack that followed. The colorful illustrations add a little humor to the story as well as helping to move along the plot. There is a clear and important message in this story: to encourage everyone, young and old, to balance their lives, to enjoy the real world around them, while still enjoying some limited screen time. I often wondered what would happen if a group of young people was challenged to go screenless for a given period of time. Could they do it? Perhaps a story like this will inspire young readers to take up the challenge and encourage their elders to do the same.

Patricia Reding

Sammy loves his screen so much that strange things happen when it goes still in The Day the Screens Stood Still by R. L. Ulman with illustrations by Bhumi Loupito. Poor Sammy, accustomed to swiping, flicking, and clicking, is suddenly “freaked out” when this happens, as are his parents, who face the same difficulty. Try though they all might to get things working again by rebooting their devices, the problem persists. The difficulties last for hours, then extend into days, and ultimately, reach into weeks. Faced with time on their hands, Sammy and his parents initially do not know what to do, but eventually, they start to notice things they hadn’t noticed before (like clouds that look like animals). They also learn how to play games (including fetch with the family dog), and they experience the joy of spending more time together. Then one day, just as suddenly as their screens previously froze, they unfreeze, freeing up Sammy and his family to return to their old ways. But will they?

R. L. Ulman addresses an issue in The Day the Screens Stood Still that most of us have faced one time or another, and that is what happens when we suddenly lose our connection to our devices. Indeed, many of us and our children have become overly dependent on them, and are busy with them to the near exclusion of other things. Yet many have also experienced when faced with being unplugged (whether by accident or design) that there are other more important things than screens—like one another. This is what Sammy learns when this happens to him and his family.

Hayley Haun

The Day the Screens Stood Still is written by R.L. Ullman and illustrated by Bhumi Loupito. The story starts with a normal family, too preoccupied with their screens to notice the outside world. “Sammy loved his screen. He loved it so much, it’s what he always wanted to do.” Sammy likes to do a lot of things on his phone. He likes to stream videos, play games, and take selfies. But one day, his screen freezes. He freaks out and shows his parents. However, to their own dismay, their screens have frozen too! What will they do now? How will they survive? And WHO is the culprit?

The funny thing is, I think a lot of us would act the same way. And sadly, it is true! The Day the Screens Stood Still is a great children’s book, because it shows us we can do other things than be on our phones. Many of us need that reminder to put our screens aside and do other things—especially go and spend time with our families. Ullman reminds us we can indeed survive without our screens. For instance, we can play outside and enjoy the weather. As humans, our imaginations are one of the greatest tools we have. For a child, that may be everything, and we should encourage them to utilize it more. Together, Ullman and Loupito bring that encouragement home. It is okay to have screen time, but all of us should take the time to break away. It is a great reminder!

Michael Gardner

Riffing the title of the famous 1950s science fiction film, The Day The Screens Stood Still also pays homage to the theme of the film—saving the human race—in this case, telling a quirky, humorous morality tale about how we’ve become addicted to our smart devices. The story starts with Sammy, who loves cat videos, online games, and taking selfies. Out of the blue, his screen freezes for no apparent reason. He freaks out. Taking this catastrophic incident to his parents, they too discover their screens have frozen. They act as any responsible adult would in the circumstances. They freak out too. Naturally, the family discovers the joy of spending time together, rather than being glued to their screens. It’s a simple story and they’re the ones that work best. Timely too, considering we've all been forced indoors.

I think The Day The Screens Stood Still is perfectly weighted for young readers as a read-aloud and along, or for middle-grade children. There’s enough humor for everyone to have a laugh, and plenty of talking points about what you’d do if your screens froze and couldn’t be fixed. That of course, is the point the book is making, allowing parents to segue different activities to screen time into the day. I also really liked Bhumi Loupito’s illustrations. They’re bright, colorful, and bring a lot of magic to the words. As with all well-illustrated children’s books, there should be side stories in the pictures. In this story, I kept an eye on Howie, the family dog, who becomes progressively happier as the family explores the joy of spending time together in the outside world. I expect Howie doesn't think much of cat videos either.