author spotlight, family, folktales, illustration, weather

Author Spotlight – John Rocco

John Rocco is yet another talented graduate from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design. He took his degree and made good with it as an acclaimed international art director for Dreamworks and then Disney. At one point in his career, he designed attractions at Epcot Center. In addition, Rocco painted the covers for the Percy Jackson series and illustrated some companion reference books. The cinematic aspects of Rocco’s art come through strongly in his picture books, giving them a sense of scale that few children’s books possess. 

Wolf! Wolf! (Hyperion Books CH)
Written & Illustrated by John Rocco

For ages: 3-7
The Boy Who Cried Wolf is recontextualized in this fantastic remixed fable with illustrations to match. Told from the perspective of an elderly wolf who is too old to chase down his prey, the animal watches the tricky sheepherder from afar. The boy goes about pranking his fellow villagers. The wolf wishes to have one of those sheep for his dinner. The paintings here set the story in Japan through the characters’ environments and clothing. Our cranky old wolf wears a beautiful silk kimono and holds an umbrella to shade him from the sun. Rocco showcases his strong sense of scope by letting the environment dominate scenes and allowing his characters to be small against them in specific moments. Overall, this is a beautiful new spin on an old classic that showcases Rocco’s strengths as a storyteller through words and illustration.


Hurricane (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Written & Illustrated by John Rocco

For ages: 4-8
Rocco has authored a series of picture books about weather phenomena. They combine facts with a narrative about a child’s experience of said event. The young protagonist’s favorite place in his community is a dock where he fishes. As the hurricane draws closer, he becomes scared that it will be destroyed and gone forever. Rocco’s illustrations detail the power & fury of the storm and the path of destruction it leaves. The important part is after the storm, as the young boy watches his diverse community work together to rebuild and restore their town. The boy participates in rebuilding his dock. The front endpapers include a splendidly illustrated diagram of the interior of a hurricane which helps children understand what precisely this dangerous storm is made of.


How To Send a Hug  (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
Written & Illustrated by Hayley Rocco and John Rocco

For ages: 4-8
Rocco worked alongside his wife, Hayley, to produce this fresh off-the-press story of how we communicate. Computers and phones are not providing the emotional release Artie needs. He wants something physical to show his Grandma how much he loves her. So Artie decides to write a letter and send it off into the world. The illustrations show a series of magical transports where the normally mundane aspects of the postal system are imbued with magic. An envelope is a unique jacket for the letter, and the mail carrier is a “Hug Delivery Specialist.” We’re treated to the trademark pencil & watercolor style that makes Rocco’s books visually pop off the page. A great read as a reminder in a digital age that we can still reach out with a letter.

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