Author: John Rocco
Age Range: 3-5
John Rocco's Blizzard is the story of New England's Blizzard of 1978, from the author's remembered childhood perspective. It is simply wonderful. Of course, the fact that I, too, remember the Blizzard of '78 may be coloring my experience of the book. But I am pretty sure that it would still be delightful, even if you had not experienced a week off from school, and 15 foot snowdrifts, personally.
Like the author, I remember digging snow forts, and struggling to get across the deep snow. I also remember walking down the middle of the street, when cars were not allowed but some minimal amount of plowing must have been done, to get to my dad's hardware store. I remember jumping off the wall behind our house, down into the drifts in the much lower property behind us (where there could have been anything beneath the snow, but we didn't think about that at the time). In my memory, it was paradise.
But you're here to hear about John Rocco's Blizzard, not mine. Blizzard is a day-by-day tale of the Blizzard of '78 from the perspective of a Rhode Island boy. The text is direct and authentic to the viewpoint of a 10-year-old. Like this:
"The wind whipped up
By the time my sister and I got home,
the snow was already over our boots."
"By day four, the plows still hadn't come.
I wondered if we'd ever see grass again."
When the family runs out of milk, it's a problem because hot chocolate made with water just isn't satisfying.
Rocco includes lovely visual touches. The passing days of the week are picked out in the snow, with animal footprints. On a page where the boy wonders if the snow will ever stop, we see a STOP sign, with snow drifted up to cover the bottom of the letters. In various illustrations, observant readers will see that the boy is reading a book on "Arctic Survival." The family's house is cozy and warm, in contrast to the cold, white outside. The tunnels and igloos that the kids build are appealing enough to make any child wish for a huge snowstorm.
Best of all, the boy gets to be a hero, strapping on tennis racket snowshoes and journeying (rather indirectly) to the local store. A fold-out map shows his shoe-prints, with annotations like "MADE AN ANGEL." It's an epic journey in a safe landscape. The safety is reinforced when we note that one of the store workers is on the phone saying: "Yes, he's on his way back now."
There is a nostalgia to Blizzard, not just because this particular blizzard took place more than 35 years ago. The boy stops to see if his neighbors need anything from the store. The family gives hot chocolate to the (eventual) snow plow drivers. The boy's sled is red metal and wood, not slick plastic. Rocco reinforces this nostalgia through the use of sepia-toned colors in some of the indoor scenes.
But I still think that modern kids will appreciate Blizzard. Building snow igloos and jumping off of snowdrifts is timeless, after all. As, I hope, is the idea that a 10 year old can be a brave explorer. Blizzard gets my highest recommendation. I can't wait to share it with my daughter.
Publication Date: October 30, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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