Sunday, June 17, 2012

Book #169: Blackout by John Rocco

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It's a normal summer night in the city for this family. The youngest child wants to play a board game, but everyone else is busy, busy, busy. But all of a sudden, all the lights in the whole city go out. Blackout. The stifling heat of the apartment drives the family up and out onto the roof where there’s a block party going on. A block party that extends into the streets with people laughing, singing, and playing. When the lights come back on everything goes back to normal, except for one family, who decides to turn out the lights and play a board game together.

The illustrations are a mix of two page spreads and comic book like panels that move the story along cinematically. When the lights are on the city buildings look brown in the warm, golden light. After the blackout the family explores their block in grays and blues. I also love that the book, like a city, is populated by citizens of all shapes, sizes, ages, and colors. The short text moves along swiftly, with short asides in speech bubbles along the way.

The themes of this Caldecott Honor book, becoming part of a community and taking time to spend with your family, will speak to children as well as their parents. This is a wonderful book to read during a No TV Week celebration. Read the book by the light of flashlights (candles are usually against fire code because of the potential fire hazard). Use a projector or lamp to create a shadow puppet or shadow dancing wall. Create stars on the ceiling by placing a colander over a flashlight.

Provide board games for families to play after storytime. Board games are wonderful because kids have to learn to share, take turns, read directions on cards and the board, identify colors, and a host of other social skills. Lead a flashlight sing-along. You can also pair this book with Suzy Lee’s book, Shadow or  Kenn Nesbitt’s poem, I’m Not Afraid of the Dark.

Ask the kids if they have ever experienced a power outage. If so, what was it like and what did they do? Encourage parents to talk with their kids about what to do if the power goes out.


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