The Emotes books by Matt Casper and Ted Dorsey are a hip and contemporary twist on children’s fiction, and present us with a refreshing new look at many of the age old issues that face children today, including fear of new experiences, making healthy lifestyle choices, and dealing with bullies.

In the stories, we are introduced to the high tech, make-believe cyber-world of Emotia. We are told that it is a place that came about when the emotions of the world’s internet users came together to form a new “super energy” universe, and it is inhabited by the Emotes, who are “kids” that ride to school on hover boards, take the gyro-bus to camp, and eat Cyber flakes for breakfast. Each character represents a different emotion (thus the name), and they are all overseen by an omnipresent mentor, A-Net.

The books are illustrated with bright, colorful drawings, and the characters are cute and inviting with a definite Japanese anime feel. The same cast of characters appears in every story, but each book revolves around one central individual who best personifies the theme that is going to be addressed, and at the end of each story, a series of exercises are designed to promote that message.

In Jumpi Goes to Camp, the main character, Jumpi (the nervous one) is terrified of new experiences, to the point where he has a hard time even getting out of bed. With a little help from his friends, however, Jumpi manages to confront his fears and take a good long look at why he is afraid, ultimately growing in the process.

In Abash and the Cyber Bully, we witness to the age old them of bullying, but in the modern context of internet. Abash (the embarrassed one) finds himself in a compromising situation, and when he is targeted by a cyber-bully, a growing problem in the real world, a series of events unfolds that helps everyone become more aware of this problem.

And finally, in Drain and the Mystery of Sleep, we examine the important concepts of proper nutrition and healthy lifestyle habits.

Even though the Emotes inhabit a high tech world of fantasy, the take home message in all of the books is that kids are still basically kids and they experience the same problems that our children experience today.

There is no indicated age range, but I’m guessing it’s geared to the 8-11 year old crowd, though that’s getting to the upper limit of kids who gravitate to picture books. I thought that younger children or kids who are less tech-savvy might get lost in some of the terminology, though that is probably not an issue, because those elements are not critical to the story or the message.

I also found it interesting that there were no parents. When you get down to it, at some point we really are out of the loop when it comes to our kids’ lives, especially when they are at school. The presence of A-Net, an overseeing icon who dispenses wisdom, seemed more effective, and helped promote the idea of older kids working things out for themselves while developing greater independence from mom and dad.

Our kids really enjoyed the books, especially Audrey, who loves to read. She gave them a big “thumbs-up,” though I know she’s not as tech savvy as other kids her age (she’s almost eight) and I’m guessing that she didn’t understand many of the computer references. Audrey and Nicholas both loved the Jumpi doll, which was a huge bonus and a great way to not only get kids interested in a book, but to help them bond with the characters in the story.

I read them to Nicholas, who is five, and though it was thematically above his level, the messages were clear, and we found the exercises at the end of each book to be helpful.

All in all, we enjoyed reading about the world of Emotia. Though I’m more of a traditionalist in terms of children’s fiction, I found these books to be clever, with fun characters, good themes, and valuable messages, though I had to wrestle with my kids to see who got to hold the Jumpi Doll.

For the record, they won.