Synopses & Reviews
Blizzard is based on John Rocco's childhood experience during the now infamous Blizzard of 1978, which brought fifty-three inches of snow to his town in Rhode Island. Told with a brief text and dynamic illustrations, the book opens with a boy's excitement upon seeing the first snowflake fall outside his classroom window. It ends with the neighborhood's immense relief upon seeing the first snowplow break through on their street. In between the boy watches his familiar landscape transform into something alien, and readers watch him transform into a hero who puts the needs of others first. John uses an increasing amount of white space in his playful images, which include a gatefold spread of the boy's expedition to the store. This book about the wonder of a winter storm is as delicious as a mug of hot cocoa by the fire on a snowy day.
Caldecott Honoree Rocco (Blackout) recalls a journey he took as a boy during the blizzard of 1978, when he lived in a small Rhode Island town. His deft compositions use expanses of white page to convey snowdrifts and winter sky. The snow is so deep that the front door won't open, and John and his sister have to leave through the window. In another couple of days, when food supplies dwindle, "I realized it was up to me to take action.... I was the only one who knew what equipment was required." Making snowshoes out of tennis rackets, young John sets off for the grocery store. An epic gatefold spread shows his path through the neighborhood, with distractions duly noted ("Made an angel"; "Joined a snowball fight"). The store owners greet him kindly, and he drags his grocery-laden sled home in triumph, distributing food to his neighbors and providing for his family. A nostalgic air of Americana permeates the story, and John's eagerness to be a hero and his display of Yankee ingenuity offer plenty of satisfaction. Ages 3 5.--PW
Young readers will be tickled by a young boy's resourcefulness in this story of how he and his family survive a monumental blizzard. The first flake falls on Monday while the young narrator is at school, and by the time he and his sister make it home after being dismissed early, the snow is over their boots. On Tuesday, the family's door won't open, and the kids climb out the window to play outside (though it's too deep for sledding and even walking). Wednesday, Dad shovels, but the snowplows don't come (though the kids can now build snow tunnels and forts). Thursday. Still no plow, and supplies are running low. On Friday, armed with the knowledge gleaned from his Arctic Survival book, John prepares some tennis rackets and ! his sled and ventures out, stopping at each of the neighbors' houses on! his way to and from the store (a very funny map charts his journey and what he does on the way) and singlehandedly bringing everyone something they needed-from cat food and milk to coffee, candles and peanut butter. The Caldecott honoree's pencil, watercolor and digital paint illustrations are reminiscent of Steven Kellogg in their light and line and detail, and readers will pore over the pages as they vicariously live through a blizzard. An author's note explains that the story is based on his own experience in the New England blizzard of 1978. A kid is the hero in this tale of ingenuity and bravery. (Picture book. 4-8)--Kirkus
K-Gr 2 Recounting a story from his childhood, Rocco sets this picture book during the "Blizzard of 78." At first, young John is ecstatic about the snow; he gets to stay home from school and play outside all day. But as the snow continues to pile up and the food in his house starts to run out, he and his family start to worry. Since he is the only one light enough to walk on top of the snow, he ties tennis rackets to his feet and sets out, walking to the nearest store, comically stopping along the way to help neighbors or to play. He then returns home with groceries for his family and neighbors; soon after the snowplows finally arrive, returning life back to normal. The simple text will be easily accessible to a young audience, and children will enjoy the message that even kids can be heroes in a time of a crisis. Rocco's artwork is as stellar as always; paint-splattered snow give an extra layer of detail to Rocco's already vividly textured backgrounds. The white negative space around some of his images effectively portrays the vastness of the snowstorm in a minimalist way, and the warm, cozy interiors are a lovely contrast. Great for storytime on a cold night. Peter Blenski, Greenfield Public Library, WI--SLJ
In this story, drawn from an incident in Rocco's childhood, the title says it all. Snow begins falling-and falling. At first it's all fun and games and hot chocolate (made with milk). By the fourth day, though, the snowplows still haven't arrived, the food is running out, and now the hot chocolate is made with water. But walking to the store doesn't seem possible-unless you are light enough to use tennis rackets as snow shoes. So, tugging his sled, the young narrator sets out. A wonderful four-page pullout spread shows an eagle-eye view of the neighborhood, with tracks marking his journey to the store. There, he buys supplies for his family and neighbors. In the evening the hot chocolate will once again be made with milk-and the next day, the snowplows arrive. The story is an adventure, but the fun comes from Rocco's pencil, watercolor, and digital art. Its retro look and its unusual vantage points show up well on wide expanses of white. Readers will also like that this really happened to Rocco-and there's a snapshot to prove it! Ilene Cooper--Booklist
Rocco presents a story of New England's blizzard of 1978, based on his own childhood experience. The same warm family feeling that permeates his Caldecott Honor book Blackout is here, but this time he sticks to a boy's-eye view of the storm. When it becomes clear that the plows aren't coming anytime soon, ten-year-old John and his sister climb out of a first-floor window (the drifting snow has blocked their front door) to explore the snowy world. At first it's all sleds and snow tunnels and hot cocoa, but by the end of the week his family's food supply has run low and our hero springs into action. Inspired by his trusty Arctic Survival book, John fashions snowshoes out of tennis rackets and plans his circuitous route to the store, a mile away. Rocco's digitally colored watercolor and pencil illustrations are suffused with blues and pinks and of course white, bringing that wintry feeling to the fore. Little details-a poster of Mount Everest, penguin-decorated lamps, days of the week incorporated somewhere into the illustrations to mark the passage of time-amusingly extend the story. A double gatefold shows the extent of the detours John takes to gather grocery orders from his housebound neighbors and make his way to the store. Readers in all climates will be intrigued by this true story of extreme weather and an intrepid kid saving the day. Think twice before making fun of folks who stock up on supplies when the slightest snowflake is predicted. robin l. smith--Horn Book
Being snowed in is a joy, until it's not, and so it goes for the protagonist of this picture book, based on the author-illustrator's own childhood experiences in the New England blizzard of 1978. What starts as a delightful school-closing snowfall accumulates and accumulates; as the days go by, the snowplows still don't make it down the street and the family's food supplies are dwindling (not in a starvation kind of way, but in a "cocoa made with water" kind of way). Our intrepid protagonist, an exploration junkie with a love of the arctic, fashions tennis rackets into snowshoes, preps a sled for hauling goods, and heads off to the local grocer on the main road, taking orders from neighbors along the way. He returns the conquering hero bearing grocery staples, and soon the plow opens up the street, to the relief of the adults and the annoyance of kids. Rocco spools out his text in deftly measured dollops, noting the day-by- day effects of the family's immurement; he mostly lets the details of the situation speak for themselves, with the occasional touches of dry humor in the kid's slightly overdramatized heroism ("On day five, I realized it was up to me to take action"). The story here is a close modern repeat of Wetterer's The Snow Walker (BCCB 12/96), the chronicle of a boy in the great blizzard of 1888 who similarly trudged out in the snow with a sled to get neighborhood goods, and it's amusing to see the tonal dissimilarities from the 100 years' difference in the event timing and the nearly twenty years' gap in publication. Where Wetterer's book is deeply sincere, Rocco's is keenly self-aware in a way that contemporary kids will find familiar and natural; the author knows that his protagonist's outing to the store for a few comforting items isn't exactly Balto's hauling the diphtheria antitoxin through Alaska, but there's still genuine celebration of a kid's memorable achievement that's undiminished by the fact that it was pretty good fun as well. The pencil, watercolor, and digital art has a Norman Rockwell esque character and solidity, and the storybook quality of the snowed-in town is perfectly in tune with kid perceptions of the experience. The layout is simultaneously elegant and clever: occasional speech bubbles add homely intimacy, the passing days are creatively identified (spelled out by critter footprints in the snow, or heading a grocery list), and the airy exterior vignettes contrast with the golden coziness of the interior scenes. The sheer engineering impact of life in snow that's nearly over your head is dramatically conveyed in deep-walled trenches in icy blue, and funny details-the boy's constant poring over his Arctic Survival book, the kids' wannabe igloo off the driveway, the stop sign getting buried under the snow in a rhyme of the text's "I thought it would never stop"-add colorful atmosphere. The tour de force is the foldout bird's-eye view of the boy's route to the store, vividly delineated by his snowshoed footprint--BCCB
About the Author
John Rocco (www.roccoart.com) studied illustration at Rhode Island School of Design and The School of Visual Arts. In addition to writing and illustrating his own picture books, including the New York Times
best-selling and Caldecott Honor-winning Blackout
, he has created all of the cover art for Rick Riordan's best-selling Percy Jackson, Kane Chronicles, and Heroes of Olympus series. He also illustrated Percy Jackson's Greek Gods
. Before becoming a full-time children's book creator, he worked as an art director on "Shrek" for Dreamworks, and for Disney Imagineering. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and daughter.