John Rocco's Blackout
Children's book review by Steve Barancik
A City Night Full of Simple Pleasures
It's a summer night in an apartment in New York. To a young boy (I think he's a boy), it's a perfect night for a board game.
He finds no takers. Dad's cooking. Mom's on the computer. Big sister is talking on the phone.
We get the sense this is pretty typical.
Sigh. He retreats to his room to play video games alone. Well, not entirely alone - the cat watches. But then...
The lights go out. (In an ironic touch, the boy is sitting under a portrait of Thomas Edison when it happens.) The electricity is off, city-wide. He panics. But his mom comes for him.
The family takes stock. What will they see out the window? Riots? No, just quiet.
Dad attempts to entertain, but his efforts are lame. When the lack of air conditioning turns overwhelming, it's the cat who leads everyone to the roof.
People are emerging from their apartments. Dancing, playing music. In the streets below, a fire hydrant is being turned on. An ice cream vendor is giving away her wares for free.
The family experiences all this together. The power outage is bringing them together, and - on a larger scale - the city as well.
But then the lights go back on. But you know what?...
The family decides not
to be busy. Everyone sits down and plays that board game, a little
richer for the reminder that they don't have to be slaves to their
I'm going to call Blackout a wordless picture book...with words. The story is simple enough, and Rocco's Caldecott Honor-winning art descriptive enough, that what few words accompany the pictures are completely unnecessary.
I put my theory to the test. I "read" the book a second time, without the words. It was a better book without them.
I suggest you do too. Wordless picture books are all the rage, and with good reason: so much of our entertainment does the thinking for us. (I suspect the folks at Disney, the publisher, were uncomfortable with the notion of a wordless picture book. After all, I haven't seen them put out many silent movies lately.)
Blackout is the simplest of stories. Skip the words and let your child tell it as he/she sees it!
Webmaster's note: You know, there's another book with a similar theme - in a non-urban setting - that you might enjoy as well. It's called All the World, and we review it!
More Caldecott reviews.
More of Steve's reviews.
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