Some picture books have a “Wow” factor. Blackout, written and illustrated by John Rocco, definitely did. Just looking at the cover on screen and hearing about the premise in the pitch had me anticipating this book. When the book arrived, it’s awesome cover — screaming with light even in the darkness — and slightly oversized frame made me even more excited to read it.
In the heart of the city one night, everyone is doing their thing. In one apartment, a girl’s teen sister is on the phone, her mom is on the computer and her dad is cooking. She just wants to play a game, but everyone is too busy.
When the lights go out, the family goes first to the rooftop and then to the streets to mix and mingle with the other people on the block.
When the lights go back on, everyone returns to their homes, but in the one apartment, the reminder of how fun life can be without the distractions of technology causes them to reevaluate just going back to their own solitary electronic pursuits, and the girl finally gets her family game night after all.
There are so many things to like about Blackout. The beautiful artwork could completely tell the story without words. The use of some full-page illustrations and other pages with comic book type squares keeps the eye engaged. The bubbles of thought and speech within these panels are always a hit with my 7-year-old son, so he gravitated right towards those. And then of course, there’s not only a lesson for parents, but the living out of the experience that every kid thinks is totally cool — a blackout.
When our power went out a couple of years ago in Connecticut, on a freezing cold morning no less, we ended up outside getting advice from our neighbors who were more experienced with wells and oil tanks, in an effort to avoid some sort of disaster. They recalled a time many winters ago when the power was out for more than a day. Their now-teenaged son piped up, “I remember that! That was the coolest thing ever. We all slept downstairs by the fire, and we roasted stuff.” Exactly.
Power outages can be inconvenient, but seen through the eyes of a child, or a picture book author and illustrator, they are actually pretty cool.
Jennifer Donovan has seen several power outages. Some were fun and some were a pain, but they have all been memorable. She tries to record her other extraordinary and everyday memories at Snapshot.