Greek Gods and Fearsome Blizzards:
A Visit with John Rocco

h1 September 23rd, 2014 by jules

“I was the only one light enough to walk on top of the snow.”
Spread (without text) from Blizzard
(Click to enlarge)

“Zeus got angry and decided to destroy the entire race. I mean, Come on.
How bad could the humans have been?”

(Click to enlarge)

Pictured right is author-illustrator John Rocco in 1971. With him is his sister, Denise, and their dog, Toby-Tyler. This photo is the inspiration for John’s newest picture book, Blizzard (Disney-Hyperion), which will be released at the end of October. Blizzard tells the true story of John’s winter of 1978, when New England, as he explains in a closing author’s note, was slammed with one of the biggest snowstorms in its history. At first, it was all a bit thrilling and fun—we’re talkin’ school lets out early, snowdrifts cover doors, and tunnels and secret rooms are dug under piles of snow—and much hot cocoa (with milk!) was consumed. Then, things started to get a bit scary, but the young boy in the tale (John himself) heads out bravely to gather groceries for his family, as well as his neighbors, since as you can see above, he was “the only one light enough to walk on top of the snow.” It’s an adventure tale with cheer and heart, and at its core it’s a story about the resiliency and bravery of children.

Today, John is sharing some early drawings from the book, as well as some final art and a couple of other surprises. To boot, he’s throwing in four of his paintings from Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, released by Disney-Hyperion in August.

Enjoy the art …


Preliminary drawings from Blizzard



Watercolor textures John created for Blizzard

John: The two watercolor textures seen here were created by doing a wash of color and then spraying them with a water bottle from about 10 feet away. My daughter and I created about 50 of these images one afternoon, and I used them throughout the book.

The ink splatter was done with black ink (borrowed from Sergio Ruzzier) and flicked onto the paper using an old toothbrush. I ended up doing about 50 of these as well, which I then would invert and use as the snowflakes throughout.



Some final art from Blizzard
(without text)


“The wind whipped up, and school closed early.
By the time my sister and I got home, the snow was already over our boots.”

(Click to enlarge)

“The snow continued to fall through the night …”


“… and I thought it would never stop.”
(Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


John: “The gatefold image is definitely an homage to the great Bill Keane’s
Family Circus comic strip that I grew up on.”
(Click to enlarge)



Art from Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods

John: [This book] is over 300 glossy pages and weighs just over four pounds! It has about 60 full-color paintings that were a herculean task. And this beautiful book is only $25! That’s right, only $25.

I guess you could say I am pretty excited about this book. The printing quality and the physicality of this book are above and beyond what I had hoped for and I am really proud of it.


“Apollo drew his bow and shot the snake between the eyes.
Then he sang a song about his awesomeness.”
(Click to enlarge)

“Pretty soon hunters from all over the world flocked to Kalydon.
They put on the first Annual and Hopefully Last Annual Kalydonian Boar Hunt.”

(Click to enlarge)

“Battus gave the baby god his pruning knife,
and Hermes led his cattle onward.”

(Click to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

BLIZZARD. Copyright © 2014 by John Rocco. Published by Disney-Hyperion, New York.

PERCY JACKSON’S GREEK GODS. Text copyright © 2014 by Rick Riordan. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by John Rocco. Published by Disney-Hyperion, New York.

All images here reproduced by permission of John Rocco.

5 comments to “Greek Gods and Fearsome Blizzards:
A Visit with John Rocco”

  1. Let me be the first to say, THANK JULIE!!

  2. I meant THANKS JULES!

  3. I love winter snow books! I really like John Rocco’s work. Can’t wait to get my hands on this book. Thank you for sharing it!!!!! Oh, and the other art is amazing too!

  4. John Rocco is one of Americas best illustrators and a wonderful writer — so talented. Haven’t we all lived that incredible feeling of loving a snowstorm when we were young? And the warmth of pajamas and a lamp, watching the snow swirl under the streetlight? I love this book and I think it’s time for the gold Caldecott. He totally deserves it!!!

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