Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Blizzard by John Rocco

Blizzard by John Rocco

Rating: 5 stars

Today is the second day back at school after my kids' winter break. Winter break for us stay-at-home moms is...different: the house is full, not empty. The house is loud, not quiet. The house is messy from all that playing-inside time, not neat from all that being-in-school time. It's fun and good and full...but I like when they go back to school.

But now, on the second day back, it's supposed to snow. Just a little. But STILL. Did it snow one flake over winter break? Nope. But today. It's supposed to snow. Go figure! I just have to laugh.

Luckily, it's not supposed to snow as much as it does in John Rocco's brilliant new Blizzard. (He won the Caldecott a few years ago with the heart-warming story with amazing illustrations Blackout.) The story is based on his experience of living through a 53-inch blizzard in Rhode Island in 1978, and is told with fewer words than illustrations, but the illustrations are larger-than-life; they tell the story by themselves...you'll be snow-blown away by it, just as I was when I first read it to my kids at the Boulder Bookstore around Thanksgiving.

Here's the story (and here's what my kids WISH they were waking up to):

"I wondered if we would ever see grass again."
A boy wakes up. He goes to school. The first snowflake falls down while school is in session, and his excitement goes up. As the day goes on and he walks home, the snow piles up and up around and on him, and the reader understands instantly that this is No Ordinary Snow. This is a whole lotta snow. The first day of the blizzard is wonderful and harmonious and fun, and the second and third days of being trapped inside and drinking hot chocolate (with milk, of course, which is better than water...I love this nod to the good-old-days, the made-from-scratch days) go by pretty well.

After a few days of being trapped inside by the snow, the family starts to go a little batty. I can relate--the house is way too full, way too loud, and messier than normal as they and their neighbors are completely snowed in. The boy watches as his family and others around him run out of the basic necessities. He decides to do something about it. He creatively puts together an outfit and equipment--including using tennis rackets for snow shoes--and rigs together a sled-grocery-cart thingamajig and pulls it from his house, through the neighborhood, to the town store.

The boy practices walking with his makeshift snowshoes...
(Rocco shows his path in a way most delightful to Kiefer these days: with a pull-out, triple-page illustration of the boy's tracks as he goes through the neighborhood. Kiefer likes to trace the path with his finger, and it's a long one that includes more than a few snowdrifts...)

The boy piles his sled high with groceries and, as he retraces his steps through the neighborhood back to his house, he gives his neighbors what they ordered. He arrives back to his own house, completely exhausted. His family celebrates his homecoming, praises his effort, and make him another mug of hot cocoa. With milk.

Even with all that snow, this is a heart-warming book, and a wonderful example of the good that can be done with resourcefulness, courage, a willing heart, and a pair of tennis rackets. This is THE BOOK you should give to kids this winter--for their birthdays or whatever reason you need to buy one extraordinary book.

Oh, and by the way, it's snowing outside of my cozy yellow house. My kids are going to be thrilled! Me? Well, I'll have an extra cup of coffee to keep up with their excitement...

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