When was the last time you turned off all the electronics and spent some quality time with family or friends? Without a natural catastrophe – snowstorms, floods, or high winds that knock over electric lines; solar sun spots that mess with cell phone coverage – we maintain our network – without really being connected to those around us. In John Rocco’s Caldecott Honor Book, Blackout, a New York City power outage provides the opportunity for time out.

On a hot summer night the youngest in the family wants to play a board game (remember those?) – but everyone else in the family is much too busy, talking on the phone, working on the computer, watching television – until “the lights went out – all of them.” The family climbs up to the roof where they see stars for the first time in the dark sky. The neighborhood awakens with everyone coming out to the street, playing guitar, dancing in the street, giving away free ice cream – a block party. This is a friendly blackout (no looting). Of course, the lights come back on; the family goes back inside. Then, someone flips the light switch off, mother lights a candle, and they all gather round to play the board game.

Getting off the grid restored a sense of community and family time for a while. A good lesson for children and adults – we all need some time off from our electronic toys to spend time with real people.

Blackout is one of three Caldecott Honor Books this year. Read the reviews of the other two honor winners: