Blackout by John Rocco tells the story of a family during a power outage in New York City. The book won the Caldecott Honor in 2012, and from the beautiful scene on the cover alone, it’s clear why.
The book begins with a boy, wanting to spend time with his family who is all much too busy to spend time with him. Then, all of a sudden, the lights go out. Not just in the apartment, but the whole city. The family gathers in the kitchen, making shadow puppets and spending time together. As the house begins to feel too warm, they venture to the roof. Here, many other families are gathered as well, and there’s a beautiful star scene shown. They look around, and realize there are many people down on the street as well. So they head down, down, down to the street and join the party going on there, enjoying games and music and ice cream with their neighbors. The lights come back on soon, and the boy laments that things are back to normal, but then says they don’t always like things being normal. He turns the lights off and the family gathers in the kitchen to play a board game and spend time together as a family.
The illustrations are an incredible asset to this book. Rocco uses a combination of panels, one page spreads, and two page spreads to tell the story. Many of the smaller panels (such as the page shown above) are effective because of the way they show several different things happening all at once. The larger spreads show incredibly detail and artistry that makes the book beautiful.
The other interesting aspect is the way Rocco uses color and light throughout the book. It begins in color, but then once the lights go out, he uses black and white illustrations, with the only color shown being the source of light: the yellow of the flashlight, or the yellow of the stars. He also places the text in places where the light source illuminates the text:
The book turns back to color illustrations as the family heads down to the street to join the party going on there, and remains in color the rest of the story.
This book tells a great story about the importance of family time- getting away from the other things that distract us and spending time with those closest to us. The illustrations are wonderfully done, and compliment the story well.