Children’s book author and illustrator John Rocco, the artist behind the covers for the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, and winner of the Caldecott Honor for his book Blackout has a new book out called Super Hair-o and the Barber of Doom available from Disney-Hyperion.
Rocco is also a dad, and a devoted out-loud reader with his daughter Alaya Marzipan (7.)
Rocco and his wife, both children’s book authors and illustrators, live in Los Angeles. Alaya attends a Waldorf school, and as parents who have fully embraced the school’s philosophy, they have created a screen-free childhood for her: There are no television screens in Alaya’s life — furthermore, no video games, computers, or even movies in a theater.
Rocco says that those experiences will happen, just not yet. In fact, he looks forward to taking Alaya to a movie in a movie theater when the time is right, but for now, books are her primary source for stories. For this reason, he says, reading books aloud to his daughter is intensely enjoyable — both because he gets to experience the books again himself, but also because he gets to enjoy the intense, fully-engaged way in which she experiences them for the first time. “Reading a book aloud to Alaya is like taking her on a 3D ride,” he says.
Dad to dad, here are his and his daughter Alaya’s all time favorite read-alouds:
2. THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahame: A classic English novel from 1908 featuring a troupe of charming and witty anthropomorphised animal characters (Mr. Toad, Ratty, Mole, and Badger among others.)
3. TOYS GO OUT: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic, the 2006 children’s book by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Paul Zelinsky (also the others in the series, Toy Dance Party, 2009, and Toys Come Home, 2011 – Random House.)
4. Ivy and Bean (series) by Annie Barrows, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Chronicle Books.)
5. Any of the Grimm’s Fairy Tales.