It's Day 20 in our series of 30 Days of Picture Books. With the holiday season upon us, there's so much to do that it's easy to get caught up in our busy-ness. Life is crazy anyway, with work and school and all our other responsibilities - add a bunch of holiday festivities on top of things and some parts of life get pushed to the side. Unfortunately in my own life, that sometimes means my family takes a backseat, which means I need to stop, reevaluate my priorities, and make time for what's really important, which is spending time with the people I love.
That's the message behind today's pick, which, although it takes place in the dead of summer, is perfect for this busy, hectic season. With Blackout, John Rocco explores what happens when our regular routine is interrupted and we have to think creatively. The action starts on a hot summer night when the whole family is engaged in activity - solitary activity - and the youngest member can't get anyone's attention. (Sound familiar? Our Day 11 pick, Journey, starts under similar circumstances.) Bored, he resorts to a video game, somewhat half-heartedly. But then the lights suddenly go out, not just in the family's apartment but all across the city. What's a family to do? Crouch inside in the hot dark house? No way - they head up to the roof for exploring or down to the street to see what everyone else is up to!
Rocco is an incredible artist, and it almost goes without saying that Blackout is a visual splendor (it won a Caldecott Honor). The way he translates the night sky, with its glowing stars and welcoming dark, lends a feeling of endless possibility to the world. The use of light here is fantastic too; the play of shadow and darkness against the bursts of illumination make for a stunning effect. Above all, Rocco gives us a great contrast, between the harsh light of early evening, when everyone is focused on their own pursuits, and the friendly sense of community that comes out when the electricity's cut.
All good things must come to an end, though, and so the power comes back on. But our hero isn't satisfied with that - he was having too much fun! - and he comes up with a solution that the whole family can get behind.
Blackout is a great choice for preschoolers, who'll appreciate not only the spare text (allowing them to insert their own interpretation of certain events) but also the absorbing illustrations. Be forewarned though - reading this title may lead you to your own spontaneous family fun - which sounds like just the ticket for a holiday weekend!
Blackout by John Rocco, published by Hyperion Books