Blackout by John Rocco


Rocco, John.  Blackout. Hyperion Books, 2011.  $16.99, 40 pages.

Link to Author’s Website:

Links to Interviews with Author:

Links to Reviews Available Online:

Reader’s Annotation:  What happens when the lights go out in the city on a hot summer night?


Mom, Dad, and sister are too busy to play with the narrator one hot, summer night.  As he settles into a lonely video game, the power goes out in the city.  Mom can’t work on the computer, sister can’t talk on the phone, Dad can’t finish making dinner.  Instead, the family, armed with a flash light and by the glow of a candle, gather together around the kitchen table and make shadow puppets.  They venture to the roof to enjoy the rooftop block party.  They investigate the street below where neighbors are playing in the street to live music and eating ice cream.  When the lights come back on, the family drifts back to their apartment and to their individual tasks until the narrator flips off the light and the family comes back together to play a board game.


This beautifully illustrated picture book is a lovely story that has readers re-examining how they spend their time.  It is a  plausible story with relateable characters.  In this digital world, where everyone is plugged in and lost in their own tasks, Rocco offers the idea that the fact that the younger generation is also plugged in is because the older generation is too busy to engage with the younger generation.  Set in an urban city, the idea of a block or street party may be less accessible for readers who are unfamiliar with such settings.  There may also be the question of how realistic it is that neighbors still come together as a community, versus citizens running rampant and looting or rioting amidst a blackout.  However, the words are simple and easily accessible in this picture book.  The pictures reflect the story, with the use of muted colors before the family comes together, the use of darker colors and shadows in the scenes of the black out, and the use of brighter colors in the scenes where the family engages with each other and their neighborhood.

Rating Scale:

  • Popularity:1 – Would sit on shelves unread; 2 – May see the light of day as an assigned reading; 3 – Interesting to readers, may need marketing; 4 – Very appealing read, ; 5 – Need multiple copies, because it would always be checked out!
  • Quality: 1 – How was this book ever published?; 2 – Poor literary quality; 3 – Average literary quality, nothing stands out as exceptional; 4 – Overall high quality literary quality, with certain areas of exceptional literary quality; 5 – Well-crafted of the highest literary quality
  • Popularity: 3
  • Quality: 3

Genre and Subgenre: realistic fiction

Appeal Factors: urban setting, adventure, family relationships, illustrations

Readalike Titles or Authors:

  • In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  • In the Tree House by Andrew Laursen
  • Goodnight iPad: A Parody for the Next Generation by Ann Droyd

Awards Won and Book Lists:

  • 2012 Caldecott Honor Book
  • 2012 Notable Children’s Books

Booktalking Ideas:

  • Family too busy to play
  • Block party in the sky
  • Using a flashlight during the blackout

Book Discussion Questions or Ideas:

  • Have you ever been in a blackout?  How did you feel?  What did you do?
  • Have you ever felt like the narrator in the story (that your family was too busy to play)?  What did you do?
  • What would you and your family do if there was no electricity?

Why I Chose This:

I chose this picture book because of its illustrations.  They reminded me of a comic or graphic novel.  I also liked that it was set in the city (somewhere near the Brooklyn Bridge!).  I especially enjoyed the message about coming together as a family after putting down their electronics.


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