Monday, August 13, 2012

Guest Review of Blackout

written and illustrated by John Rocco
Disney/Hyperion | May 24, 2011

The very first thing to do, when holding John Rocco’s 2012 Caldecott Honor book, Blackout, is to take the dust jacket off and spread the book out to see the monochromatic image of a city block. One spot of brilliant yellow can be found on the front cover where a light shines out of a window, turning the figures behind the glass into shadows. Open the book and Rocco’s androgynous protagonist (who I’ll call “she”) gazes out a window with a look of utmost boredom.

On the first spread we learn that “It started out as a normal summer night. The city was loud and hot.” Two airframes show the reader the same city block from the cover, but this one is awash with color, light, and “loud” intraiconic text. The protagonist can be seen in a window, the large TV casting a green hue over the room. Abandoning the TV, she tries to coerce her family into playing a game with her but “Everyone was busy. Much too busy.”

As she sits alone, the lights go out. “All of them.”

What follows is the family’s journey through a hot and powerless city evening. Rocco’s watercolor uses hue to create mood, setting, and character while his frames propel the story along. Watch how the air frames change from white to black or how one character has an uncanny ability to move in and out of frames the others cannot break. Look for little jokes (the girl’s room has a portrait of a certain someone who had a lot to do with light bulbs) and keep an eye on the shadows. Even the picture of the artist on the back flap refers back to the subject of the book. All in all, Blackout is a fantastic, fun, and wholly engaging read with so many layers it can (and likely will) be read again and again.

 Si├ón Gaetano is, before all else, a reader. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Children’s Literature at Simmons College (to be finished in  Summer 2013) and working evenings serving the good people of Boston food and beverage. 

1 comment:

  1. I love this book! Rocco's ability to challenge societal definitions of "normalcy" is tasteful and though-provoking: the family is multiracial; traditional gender-roles are reversed; genders are androgynous; and homosexuality is present. Rocco's incorporation of these details is non-gratuitous and non-obtrusive; he is not trying to push ideals upon readers but shows that "normalcy" is a societal creation, not a goal to be achieved.

    Great review, Sian!