The Couch Potato

Book review by
Angela Zimmerman, Common Sense Media
The Couch Potato Book Poster Image
Lively tale encourages and celebrates screen-free time.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

Helps young kids gain an understanding of screen time limitations. Encourages them to look well beyond screens for fulfillment.

Positive Messages

Encourages kids to reconnect with friends, nature, exercise, and imagination. Invites personal reflection on what they can offer to the world. It also acknowledges that fact that everyone needs some down time, and that's OK. 

Positive Role Models

Initially, Potato spends all his time on the couch, engaging with a number of screens for different purposes -- TV and movies, games, chatting with friends, watching a live stream of his best friend. He grows throughout the story and broadens his expectation of what each day can bring. 

Violence & Scariness
Language

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Couch Potato is a picture book collaboration between writer Jory John and illustrator Pete Oswald. Like many of their other books, this is a wry, witty tale with solid messages and clever wordplay. In The Couch Potato, our main character is a potato who spends every day and all day lounging on the couch with screens, snacks, and even gadgets designed to help never have to get up. There's a mild allusion to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown (he used to see his friend in real life, "in the old days") and lots of spoofs of real products and TV programs (for example, a Friends spin-off called "Frites" and a Mad Men show called "Mad Yam"). Central to the story is Potato's screen-filled room and his eventual realization that things feel better in real life (but there's always a time and a place to relax and take in some media). The Couch Potato makes a great introduction to young kids about the harm of spending ample hours alone, inside, watching screens, and it encourages them to find the fun and beauty in screen-free activities. 

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What's the story?

THE COUCH POTATO really, really loves his couch. He spends all of his free time slouched on the couch, and has everything he could possibly need or want just within arm's reach -- snacks, slippers, headphones, games, gadgets, remote controls, and especially screens. His "sea of shimmering screens, from wall to shining wall" is the best part of his setup. On his screens, he plays video games, live-streams with his best "spud," and watches his favorite shows, like "Fries" (Friends), "Mad Yam" (Mad Men), and "Mashed Potatoes" (M*A*S*H). All is just dandy on the couch for Potato, until one day the power goes out. With no screens to keep him occupied, he sets out for his first walk in quite a while, and soon realizes everything he's been missing outside in the real world. 

Is it any good?

This delightful tale is packed full of wit and whimsy while also offering some good messages about screen time balance that kids as young as preschool can understand. Jory John's writing is full of puns that parents will get a kick out of, and Pete Oswald's illustrations are cheerful and buoyant. When Potato eventually peels himself off the couch and away from his endless amenities, he discovers a world brimming with beauty and possibility. He finally confronts the fact that he needs more out of life than slouching on the couch every day. He does, however, acknowledge the benefits of relaxing and taking it easy and enjoying what screen time has to offer, but now he spends most of his time outside, playing with friends, being active, and making real memories. And that's a message readers of all ages can get behind.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time and how it's shown in The Couch Potato. What are some ways you monitor screen time in your household? What kinds of things do you do on screens? What are some of your favorite things to do when you're away from screens?

  • How much time do you spend on screens? Have you been spending more time on screens lately? Why or why not? 

  • How do you think the story could have unfolded if the power outage hadn't forced Potato to finally go outside?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love silly stories

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