I am a huge fan of John Rocco's artwork, and I am thrilled to be part of this blog tour. It was also fun to ask John some questions about his work and favorite bookstores. Thank you John for stopping by.
Even 36 years later, I remember the blizzard of 1978. However, other than being home from school all week and my mom getting a ride to the hospital (she was an ER nurse) by an emergency vehicle, I do not have any great stories. After reading the note about the Blizzard of '78, I realize that authors tend to have a much more creative memory about events. How do stories develop for you?
Yes, I didn’t think I had any great stories about that time either, but my daughter has actually been great in helping me dredge up these memories. Ever since she was about 4 years old (she’s 8 now) she has been asking my wife and I to tell her stories about when we were little. It became part of our nighttime ritual; 3 books, sing a song, tell a story about when I was little. She hardly ever wanted to hear the same story twice, so we were really forced to go deeper into the memory banks. It’s a great exercise, and I’m sure you’d be surprised at what comes back to you. Once I remembered that experience I was fortunate enough to be able to talk with my parents about it, both of whom remembered it vividly. My father had actually saved all the newspapers from that week, (Providence Journal, Boston Globe) and immediately sent them to me when I told him I was thinking of turning it into a book.
As I developed the story, I realized the best way to treat it would be like a diary of the week that we were snowed in.
In Southern California, students do not really understand snow or a blizzard. The illustrations really bring so much of the story to life for children who may not have experienced snow before. I have noticed that your illustrations in both BLACKOUT and in BLIZZARD really provide the reader with a sense of being there. Do you have a particular technique or way of bringing things to life visually?
First off, thank you for that. I do strive to get across a sense of being there. I think it BLACKOUT, the color choices and lighting was key. I love to render light, and that was the perfect story to do that with. The shadows, the candlelight, the flashlights, were all great opportunities to give a sense of mood.
With BLIZZARD I wanted to play with the ideas of cool and warm, having the exterior images very cool using lots of blues and whites, and the interiors by the woodstove having a very warm feel. I also like the solitary quiet pictures, the ones that give you the sense of that almost deafening silence when the ground is covered in snow, and there is a stillness in the air, right before the first footsteps disturb the perfect blanket of snow.
Do you have any special creative (writing/drawing) routines, and what is your creative space/studio like?
My studio is in the backyard of our house, formerly a three-car garage that was converted into two studios for my wife and I. I sit near a window that looks out onto a bamboo filled section of our yard. It’s a great space filled with lots of light and bookshelves, I’m very fortunate to have it. I usually try to do my writing in the early morning, sometimes before my wife and daughter are awake. That is the best time for my head to be clear. With creating pictures for my books, I don’t have any special routines, I just sit down, whenever I can, and get to work. Sometimes I like to play documentaries while I am drawing. I feel like I am learning something while I draw, and it also seems to free up that part of my brain.
Are you working on any new books/projects that you can share with us?
Right this minute I am hard at work on the sequel to Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods. It’s all about the heroes this time, Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes. It will make a very nice set! I also just finished illustrating a picture book called Beep Beep, Go To Sleep written by Todd Tarpley and published by Little Brown. It’s a very sweet book about a boy struggling to put his three robots to bed.
What has been your favorite question or letter from a reader (either at a school visit or in a letter/email form)?
My favorite question is always “Where do you get your ideas from?” I think because it seems to some people that it’s some magical gift, and I like to show them that it really isn’t. Anybody can come up with great ideas, it’s all a matter of asking yourself the right questions. My favorite one is “What if?” because you can put anything after that, and start on a path to creating. For example, when I am on a school visit I will ask the kids “What if?” questions like this: What if your school was at the bottom of the ocean? And what if you had to take a submarine to school? And what if your teacher was an octopus? You see, one question leads to another and pretty soon you have an original little story. Plus they ALWAYS laugh when I ask them about their teacher being an octopus.
What is your favorite Independent Bookstore and where is it located?
Oh, that’s a hard one. I love them all! It seems like every state has at least one really great independent that goes above and beyond in their efforts to connect readers to books. Here are some that stick out for me.
Hicklebees in Palo Alto, CA
Books of Wonder in NYC
Point Reyes Books in Point Reyes Station, CA
Children’s Book World in Los Angeles, CA (Note: John will be here for an author visit on November 15, 2014 at 10:30 a.m.)
By John Rocco
Disney-Hyperion; ISBN: 978-1-4231-7865-1
Price: $17.99; Ages: 3–5; On-sale: October 30, 2014
Based on John Rocco’s childhood experience during the Blizzard of 1978, when forty inches of snow fell on his Rhode Island town, BLIZZARD (Disney-Hyperion; On-sale: October 30, 2014) tells the story of how one intrepid explorer helps his family and neighbors. It is a worthy companion to his Caldecott Honor-winning picture book, Blackout, about a neighborhood power outage during the summer.
BLIZZARD 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 finally break through on their street many days later. 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 cleverly uses increasing amounts of white space in his playful and nostalgic images, which include full-bleeds, comic panels, and a glorious gatefold spread of the boy's circuitous expedition to the store.
Whether readers are all-too-familiar with blizzards or have never experienced the wonder of a winter storm, John Rocco’s BLIZZARD is as delicious as a mug of hot cocoa by the fire on a snowy day.
Official Trailer for BLIZZARD:
About John Rocco:
ohn 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 the New York Times #1 best-selling 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.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the Blizzard Blog Tour! There are fantastic author interviews, sneak peeks at the artwork inside the book, and giveaways.
Thursday, November 6 Mundie Kids
Friday, November 7 Kid Lit Frenzy (you're here)
Monday, November 10 The Children’s Book Review
Tuesday, November 11 The Kids Did It
Wednesday, November 12 OC Mom Media
Thursday, November 13 As They Grow Up
Friday, November 14 Curling Up With a Good Book
Monday, November 17 Ben Spark
Tuesday, November 18 Mr. Schu Reads
Thursday, November 20 Elizabeth Dulemba