Blackout: When Failure Leads to Understanding


As you know, on this blog I like to profile picture books I chance upon that move me in some way, basically the ones I like and remember. Even better than finding a book I like, is finding a book I wish I’d written. That happened when I discovered Blackout by John Rocco. Blackout tells of what happens to one family typically attached to their busy lives until a blackout occurs. I’ve been lamenting the culture of ‘being too busy’ that seems to permeate our lives these days. I’m guilty of uttering the same words following a greeting from a friend, “Good, but I’m so busy lately.” Or, when asked by my son to play a game, “I can’t right now; I have to work.” Having goals and commitments should rarely leave one too busy to play a game or read a book or take a walk. Forced to unplug and stop cooking (though I would place cooking together in the same category as playing a game), the family discovers the joy of play and camaraderie.

Reading Blackout caused a big ‘aha! to escape from my lips as a sigh. I have been wracking my brain for a way to write a picture book that speaks to this same message. But where all my ideas fail because they sound too preachy, Rocco succeeds. Where my ideas seem too verbose, full of telling and not showing, Rocco succeeds in a mere 130 words. Of course, he is also the illustrator and can choreograph the dance between illustration and words succinctly.

So this family failed to see they were ignoring important aspects of their relationships until the power failed. And I failed to see a way to share my concern of this same problem with my own words. I’m lucky John Rocco succeeded. Now, with Blackout as a mentor text, I have a better understanding of possible ways to spread similar messages. Kudos to John Rocco for an upbeat, simple story full of power!