Friday, July 1, 2011

Happiness is...a good book. (Summer Reading edition #5)

Author: John Rocco
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4+
Published: 2011
Genre: Picture Book/Fiction
Cover Score: ****
Overall Grade: *****
Rating: G

This lovely little book has been getting a lot of buzz around the ‘blogosphere’ lately and it’s easy to see why. It’s a simple telling of one fictional family’s experiences during the rolling blackouts in New York the summer of 2003. Each member of the family is sequestered in their own activities, plugged in, talking on the phone, playing video games etc.  One child pulls down a board game to play but is turned away again and again by everyone else who is much too busy.

And then the lights go out.

All of them.

And suddenly the family is forced together, sharing the flashlights and candles and unable to finish all of the things they were doing earlier.  They play games together. They venture up to the roof where they bask in the light from stars usually unseen in the city. They venture down to the street where impromptu block parties are going on with everyone sharing ice cream before it melts, playing games and signing songs. And when the lights come back on and everything goes back to normal the child chooses to turn off the light switch and the family happily resumes their board game.

The illustrations are pitch-perfect, with deep, rich colors and cross-hatching that creates texture and shadows.  The lights from the city and then the candles and flashlights glow merrily keeping the tone light and cheerful rather than eerie or frightening (a plus for a book that targets an age group where so many of its readers are still harboring fears of the dark!)   The text is simple and sparse (the most text-heavy page has only 19 words) with a few speech bubbles and sound noises (beeps, honks, clicks) scattered throughout the illustrations. With a message that we can all use no matter our ages, it’s a great reminder to simplify, slow down and spend time with people rather than technology.  Highly recommended! (I smell at least one award in its future…dare I say a Caldecott?!)  Gather your favorite people around you, turn out the lights and enjoy this little gem by candle- or flashlight.  You can thank me later.

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