Blackout - Picture Book Review

Blackout by John Rocco
Publication date: 24 May 2011 by Disney Hyperion
ISBN 10/13: 1423121902 | 9781423121909
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Category: Children's Picture Book
Keywords: Caldecott Honor, New York, blackout, family, community
Format: Hardcover
Source: Borrowed

From Goodreads:

One hot summer night in the city, all the power goes out. The TV shuts off and a boy wails, "Mommm!" His sister can no longer use the phone, Mom can't work on her computer, and Dad can't finish cooking dinner. What's a family to do?

Alethea's Review:

Based on true events, John Rocco's moody but whimsical illustrations tell of a strange evening in 2003 when the lights went out in the Northeast United States. Fear of terrorism after the 9/11 attacks of 2001 could have made this a much more tragic event than it was, but instead of turning on each other, New Yorkers kept each other safe throughout the dark night.

This picture book shows the events on a much more intimate level that what you can hear on the news. On the surface it's about a family disconnected from their normal routine. Especially for kids growing up in such a plugged-in age, what do you do when the power turns off?

For grown-ups, Blackout will evoke memories of a simpler time where you had to amuse yourself without the aid of video games, computers, television, and all the other power-reliant gadgets and services we have today. For the younger audience, it subtly touches on kindness, creativity, and family togetherness.

I love that the family who are the main characters in the book portrays the diversity I associate with an urban, modern place like New York City. The scenes depicting their neighbors and passers-by spilling out into the night, sharing food and whatever light and comfort that they could, still bring tears to my eyes. Imagine what it would be like if only people would treat each other so well all the time and not just on the darkest days.

I think this is a great picture book not just for little kids and bedtimes, but even for older kids and adults who might be discussing recent American history, art & illustration, psychology, contingency plans, and even anthropology. Wouldn't this make a fun (and maybe not-so-scary) nighttime literacy cafe to teach children about emergency procedures? Grown-ups can fire up the grill instead of turning on the microwave, kids can discover the lost art of shadow puppetry, and together they can read this book, even if illuminated only by flashlight.

Blackout is a Caldecott Honor book for 2012. I had the great privilege of meeting John Rocco, shaking his hand, and congratulating him on winning this prestigious award. That was definitely a highlight of my experience at this year's ALA Annual Conference!

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