Blackout, by John Rocco
Age Range: 3 and Up
I could recommend John Rocco’s Blackout for it’s illustrations of the East Coast Blackout in 2003 alone, but that wouldn’t even begin to do it justice. Rocco manages to pull off a trio of children’s book themes effortlessly: taking the fright out of something scary, recounting an historical event and bringing a family together.
The story follows a typical family in New York City. Everyone’s busy doing something: working on the computer, talking on the phone, cooking (sounds familiar right?). Spoiler alert: the lights go out. How the family handles the situation and how the community comes together is at the heart of the story. Rocco presents a city far different than one with electricity, -and shows how you can find things in the dark including community and family.
Of course blackouts can happen anywhere and therefore the themes in Blackout are universal. I’m often asked about books that can help children work through fears or situations that make them uncomfortable. Blackout allows a parent to present to a child what can be a frightening situation and magically turn it into something not scary at all.
As an aside, help your child notice the amazing details John Rocco has included. Can you spot the picture of Thomas Edison? Notice the ‘bookends’ in the story as well. In the beginning of the book the girl is taking a game down from the shelf; at the end she plays the game with her family. Marzipan, the ice cream store, is lit in the beginning of the story and then blacks out. But the ice cream that is given away at the end is from the store. These are great details that enrich your reading experience.
So go ahead: unplug the computer, turn off your cellphone, grab a flashlight or a candle and read this book to your child. I think you’ll find it, well…enlightening.