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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? When they go up to the roof to escape the heat, they find the lights—in stars that can be seen for a change—and so many neighbors it's like a block party in the sky! On the street below, people are having just as much fun—talking, rollerblading, and eating ice cream before it melts. ...

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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? When they go up to the roof to escape the heat, they find the lights—in stars that can be seen for a change—and so many neighbors it's like a block party in the sky! On the street below, people are having just as much fun—talking, rollerblading, and eating ice cream before it melts. The boy and his family enjoy being not so busy for once. They even have time to play a board game together. When the electricity is restored, everything can go back to normal . . . but not everyone likes normal. The boy switches off the lights, and out comes the board game again.

Using a combination of panels and full bleed illustrations that move from color to black-and-white and back to color, John Rocco shows that if we are willing to put our cares aside for a while, there is party potential in a summer blackout.

A 2012 Caldecott Honor Book

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Rocco's sublime account of a city blackout reveals a bittersweet truth: it sometimes takes a crisis to bring a family together. In a series of graphic novel–style panels, a small child tries to convince family members to play a board game one hot summer night, but they're all too busy. When the lights go out, though, the neighborhood comes alive and the whole family drifts up to the roof to look at the stars: "It was a block party in the sky." Rocco (Fu Finds the Way) gets everything right: the father's pained, sheepish smile when he says he has no time to play; the velvety dark and glowing candlelight of the blackout (as well as the sense of magic that can accompany one); and the final solution to the problem of a too-busy family (a private blackout, courtesy of a light switch). The high-energy visuals that characterize Rocco's other work get dialed back a little. In the most poignant spread, the family sits on the stoop, eating ice cream: "And no one was busy at all." It's a rare event these days. Ages 4–8. (May)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
One ordinary night in the hot city, all the family members are busy, too busy to play a game together until suddenly all the lights in the apartment, and in the city, go out. Nothing works. The family huddles around flashlights and candles in the heat, until they decide to go all the way up to the roof. There they can see the wonder of the stars. Hearing people, they go down to the street, where folks are having a party with free ice cream before it melts, music, and water from a hydrant turned on by a firefighter. "And no one was busy at all." When the lights come back on the family decides that instead of going back to their usual individual activities, they will enjoy more playing a game together by candlelight. Across the book's cover is a row of buildings with just one window glowing. The jacket shows that building on the back, with the family admiring the stars from the roof on the front. After this and the dark end pages, we are surprised to see on the first two pages that every window of the street, and even the street lamps, are brightly lit. We are given close-ups of the "too busy" people in some windows. And then the dark descends. The sparse text is set in elaborate upper case letters. The focus is on the family created in comic book style with action in different size frames and across double pages. The contrast of dark and light is intense; there is a warm light around the family as they enjoy the unusual opportunity to be together. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—The view inside this family of four's duplex depicts what might be a typical night for them. The younger child is reaching for a board game, her older sister is talking on the phone, dad is cooking, and mom is working at the computer. When the girl tries to enlist the others to play the game with her, they're all too busy—until "The lights went out. All of them." It's a blackout! At first, the family members sit at the kitchen table with a flashlight and some candles; then they head up to the roof for a look at the bright stars against the dark cityscape; and, finally, they go down to the street, where there's a festive atmosphere of guitars playing, free ice cream, and an open fire hydrant. In the end, readers will see that simple pleasures and a spirit of togetherness can be enjoyed even when the electricity comes back on. The colorful pictures work beautifully with the book's design. Rocco uses comic-strip panels and a brief text to convey the atmosphere of a lively and almost magical urban landscape. Great bedtime reading for a soft summer night.—Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL
Kirkus Reviews

"It started out as a normal summer night"—until the lights go out, citywide.

When it gets "too hot and sticky" inside their apartment (no fans or AC tonight), one busy family (mom, dad, two girls and a black cat) heads to the rooftop of their building, where they find light via stars and a block party "in the sky." Other parties are happening down on the street, too. When the lights come back on, everything returns to normal, except for this family, which continues to enjoy the dark. The plot line, conveyed with just a few sentences, is simple enough, but the dramatic illustrations illuminate the story. Beginning with the intriguing cover—the silhouetted family on their rooftop under a vast, dark-blue sky dotted with Starry Night–type swirls, black is used as both a backdrop and a highlighter. Page composition effectively intermingles boxed pages and panels with double-page spreads, generating action. Brilliantly designed, with comic bits such as a portrait of Edison on a wall and the cat running from a hand shadow of a dog.

Not all young readers will have experienced a blackout, but this engaging snapshot could easily have them wishing for one. (Picture book. 5-8)

Rick Moody
Blackout is about the restoration of a sense of community, not only within a family but in the larger context of a neighborhood…Rocco's parable of life off the grid is warm and sweet; my own daughter liked it a great deal despite being a little scared of the dark.
—The New York Times
Kristi Jemtegaard
A common event to be sure, but Rocco's gorgeous illustrations, full of shadows and silhouettes, illuminate it and make it glow.
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781423121909
  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
  • Publication date: 5/24/2011
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 56,139
  • Age range: 4 - 7 Years
  • Lexile: BRL (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

John Rocco ( has held a wide variety of jobs in his life, from working in the shell fishing industry, to designing attractions for Walt Disney World's Epcot, to creating illustrations for the DreamWorks movie "Shrek." Since 2005 his focus has been on creating children's books, such as Wolf! Wolf!, a Borders Original Voices Award-winner; Moonpowder; and Fu Finds the Way. He has also created the cover artwork for Rick Riordan's best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Kane Chronicles series. John and his family live in Brooklyn, New York, where they have experienced their share of memorable summer blackouts.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 16, 2013

    In the book Blackout by John Rocco, a little girl is trying to s

    In the book Blackout by John Rocco, a little girl is trying to spend some time with her family, but everyone is too busy. Mom is working; Dad’s making dinner, and bossy big sister is chatting on the phone. What else is there to do in the big city? The next thing they know, all of the power goes out. Maybe it’s for the best. Now is the time to spend with the family. This realistic fiction story is told from the point of view of the little girl, who is also the narrator. The theme is that you should take a break and spend some time with your family whenever you can. This book is very relatable and is for 4-8 year olds.

    The conflict is the family is way too busy to spend time with each other. All of the people in the family are busy, and the little girl wants to be with her family. The power outage was the time for the family to spend time together. It brought them closer together because even after the power came back on, the girl wants the family to spend more time together. They do because they want to; so, I think they got the idea.

    The illustrations of this book are so simple but are also very beautiful. They are very peaceful and

    abstract with a lot of color. One illustration that has a lot of colors is when the family was very hot and went up to the top of the roof looking at the stars. The colors are dark but the stars have a very bright which shows how the power is out and there's nothing to do. The text is all in caps and very bold except for the one word,”sorry,” on page 3. I think John Rocco did this because the dad really felt sorry for the little girl. The illustrations are by John Rocco as well. He used a graphite pencil to make the outline and then colored it in with photoshop. The light shading he uses in the book make the pictures stand out from the background and really pop .

    Even though this book is made for little kids, anyone who reads it will love it. It has a very basic setting, and I love how this book is so relatable.It’s a normal thing for the power to go out, have your family to be really busy, and want to spend time with them.It’s very easy and simple to read but also very exciting. I think John Rocco did an amazing job explaining the story by the illustrations, in the book because he made the characters very lifelike. This book is amazing, fun, and shows how nothing is better than spending time with your family.

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  • Posted October 4, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Surprises can occur when the lights go out

    In the city, everyone is distracted. Parents play on the computer and siblings chat on the phone, but no one talks to each other and everyone is too busy to spend time together. In this stunningly illustrated book, Rocco beautifully details the enjoyable time a family can share with one another when an unexpected blackout occurs.
    The family takes a trip to the roof, where the stars shine brightly in the sky and back to the street where melting ice cream is handed out freely to children who dance in the street. From creating shadow puppets with a flashlight to playing board games by candlelight, this rare blackout turns into a fun night. Blackout shows that a great time can be spent with family.
    Recommended for readers age 4-7. *Caldecott Honor Book

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  • Posted August 1, 2012

    In the city where everyone is busy, busy, busy...something terri

    In the city where everyone is busy, busy, busy...something terrible happens...a BLACKOUT! Oh no! Now what will these busy, busy people do?

    My 7-year-old's thoughts: It was good. My favorite part was when they went upstairs and onto the roof. When they got up there they saw the lights and people! Those two pages were the best. I want to take this to my class and read it to them now!

    My thoughts: What a fun story! I love the idea of "turning it all off" and just hanging out together. We've been doing that more and more at night. We won't even turn on the TV some nights, will sit down in our chairs or go outside for the entire evening, and read or just plain hang out together. I love evenings like this! The two pages my daughter loved are my favorites too when they emerge onto the rooftop and look up at the amazing night sky with all of its gorgeous stars! Then they look around and see tons of other people have done the same thing and wave to them! How fun is that!? The illustrations were a bit different from others, which I liked. I especially liked that some pages had a "graphic" feel to them with many pictures and others were full pages of wonder. There's no wondering about why this was awarded the Caldecott Medal of Honor!

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  • Posted February 22, 2012

    What a fun story!

    This is a great story of families today and how everyone seems to always be too busy for each other. The Blackout brings them together with each other and the community in a new way and does so using OUTSTANDING illustrations. The ending gives us hope that if we rethink things - the modern family can survive.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2012

    Check it out!

    I purchased the book for my 5 year old grandson. It was sent directly to him so I did not have the opportunity of reading it first. I thought it would be quite appropo as he had recently experienced a power outage where he lived. I am happy to say that he enjoyed the book immensely!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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