Technological advances are made every day, it seems. How will they change our lives over the course of the next 20 years? More specifically: What will it be like to be a kid in the year 2030?
"2030" follows a young boy as he wakes up, goes to school, plays with a friend, and eventually returns to bed. Something new (to us) and innovative shows up at every turn. From owning a dog with a computerized collar that can translate barking into English, to living in an eco-village cluster development and attending virtual batting practice, the text explores a variety of technological advancements that would affect a child. Some inventions or predictions seem far-fetched; others could be very close to implementation. (A GPS in every vehicle is an example of the latter.) Adults who turn these pages may be reminded of gadgets they saw in episodes of the Jetsons, Star Trek, Star Wars, or even the Back to the Future movies. "Clean-a-rella" could be Rosie the Robot's twin sister, quite frankly. After reading this book, young people could be prompted to think and to participate in discussions about what the future might hold for them.
The book may have trouble finding its real audience, though. The text is far too complex for the listed pre-pub target readership, "Ages 6-8." In fact, many members of that group would have trouble sitting still long enough for an adult to read the whole book to them. More likely readers would be the middle graders, represented by the "Ages 9-12" notice that the publisher now lists for the entry. But since the information is presented in picture book format, those kids may assume that the content is for "babies" and pass it by without opening the covers. Some might even think the pictures are too "cartoony." What a dilemma! It will take some effort by a parent, a teacher, or a librarian to offer this book to a youngster who is ready for it.
John Manders' illustrations are bright, colorful, and detailed. Authors Amy Zuckerman and James Daly are obviously familiar with their subject matter. The information presented here is interesting. But the book could have been made more interactive and more kid-friendly. Add a glossary to explain new or complex terms. Post simple discussion questions at the end, or scatter them throughout the volume. Have an accompanying web site that does more than merely advertise the book; one where young people can explore or experiment with even more innovations. As it stands now, there's no follow-up or any kind of prompt for a child to respond to, once the book is finished.
Very few children's books address the topics of technology or future studies. That could be because elementary school students live very much in the present. The future to them may mean summer vacation or Christmas or an upcoming birthday. Wondering what everyday life will be like 20 years from now can be a tremendous intellectual leap for a young person. And once they are able to grasp that concept, they may be disappointed to realize that they will be ADULTS in the year 2030, and therefore probably won't live the young and carefree life of the boy in the book anyway. Yes, unfortunately, this one's a real puzzler.