Thursday, April 23, 2015

Learning from Picture Books: Blackout!

The book I'm featuring today seems appropriate, after thinking about Earth Day and how to reduce, reuse and recycle. What would you do if there was no electricity? This book might give you some ideas, or at least spark a conversation. It has also been named a Caldecott Honor Book.

Here's the summary from Amazon:


One hot summer night in the city, all the power goes out. The TV shuts off and a boy wails, "Mommm!" His sister can no longer use the phone, Mom can't work on her computer, and Dad can't finish cooking dinner. What's a family to do? When they go up to the roof to escape the heat, they find the lights--in stars that can be seen for a change--and so many neighbors it's like a block party in the sky! On the street below, people are having just as much fun--talking, rollerblading, and eating ice cream before it melts. The boy and his family enjoy being not so busy for once. They even have time to play a board game together. When the electricity is restored, everything can go back to normal . . . but not everyone likes normal. The boy switches off the lights, and out comes the board game again.

Blackout! written and illustrated by John Rocco, published by Disney Hyperion Books, 2011.

My thoughts as a writer:

This book provides a wonderful example of how minimal text works together with illustrations to create a complete reading experience. It’s definitely a book where every word counts. 

The beauty of this book is that it connects to a real experience a family might have had together. It’s a book that can spark conversation, without being preachy. I really admired the pacing.

My thoughts as a teacher:

As a teacher, I might use this book to inspire children to think about their own experiences and memories as ideas for writing. This would be a nice book to read around the time of Earth Day, Earth Hour or Screen Free week (May 4 – 10), because it’s a great lead in to talk about alternatives ways to spend time without using much energy (e.g., board games vs. electronic games) and to get children thinking about what life might be like without electricity.

Themes: family relationships, unplugging from technology,

Ages: 2 - 6

Some possible activities:

- discuss differences in how a blackout might affect people who live in a city vs. people who live in the country or in another place

- make a poster for different activities to do without electricity

- have students think about a time they spent with their family, list details, and draw or write a story

- create their own board game 

For another review of this book, visit Patricia Hilton of Children’s Books Heal. There's also a video interview with John Rocco as a featured author/illustrator for the 12 x 12 picture book challenge.


If you're looking for more great picture books to read to your class or to investigate as a writer, consider checking out the list of Perfect Picture Books, put together by author Susanna Leonard Hill.

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