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Rocco, John 1967-

Rocco, John 1967-

Personal

Born 1967, in RI; married Aileen Leijten (an author/illustrator); children: Alaya Marzipan. Education: Attended Rhode Island School of Design and School of Visual Arts.

Addresses

Home—Brooklyn, NY. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Illustrator and author. Art director for film and television, theme parks, and museums; freelance illustrator, 2004—.

Member

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Awards, Honors

Borders Original Voices Award for Best Picture Book of the Year, 2007, National Parenting Publication Gold Award, and Storytelling World Resource Award, both 2008, and Society of Illustrators (Los Angeles) Silver Medal, all for Wolf! Wolf!

Writings

(Illustrator) Whoopie Goldberg, Alice, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1992.

Wolf! Wolf!, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2007.

Moonpowder, Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2008.

Sidelights

John Rocco illustrated his first picture book for children, Whoopie Goldberg's Alice, while he was employed as a bartender. Goldberg's 1992 story was well received by critics and Rocco's illustrations were praised for their surreal depiction of the tale's contemporary urban setting. However, Rocco did not make the transition to book illustrator for over twelve years, in the meantime he worked as an art director on films such as Shrek, as well as on projects for television, mu-

seums, and theme parks. Finally, in 2004 he decided to focus on book illustration, inspired in part by his wife, illustrator Aileen Leijten, and by the birth of their daughter. His paintings bring to life his original stories in the award-winning picture book Wolf! Wolf! as well as in the fantasy adventure Moonpowder. In addition, Rocco creates cover art for numerous children's books by other writers.

Rocco grew up in a coastal community in Rhode Island and was working as a deckhand on a fishing boat by the time he was in middle school. A string of other jobs got him through high school and college, including paperboy, retail clerk, golf caddy, waiter (and later bartender), soccer coach, and carpenter. He began his art training at the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design and eventually moved to New York City to attend the School of Visual Arts. Although his career as an art director found him working in California, Hawaii, and the Philippines, Rocco has since returned to the East Coast and now makes his home in Brooklyn, New York.

In Wolf! Wolf! Rocco presents what School Library Journal contributor Genevieve Gallagher dubbed a "twisted treatment of Aesop's fable" about the boy who cried "Wolf!" Featuring a nostalgic setting that evokes a China of centuries ago, the story introduces a dapper but elderly wolf with a hearing problem. When the well-dressed creature hears a boy cry "Wolf, wolf!," he mistakenly thinks he is being summoned for lunch. He therefore feels tricked by the youngster when a group of angry villagers arrive and tag him as a menacing creature. The poor animal is, in fact, only looking for a tasty meal, possibly one of the boy's goats since his garden has fallen into disarray. In the end, the boy gives the old wolf a goat; instead of making the gift a one-time-only meal, the wolf puts the goat to work in his garden and the two become fast friends. Praising Rocco's unique take on a traditional tale, Gallagher cited the author/illustrator's "purposeful use of frames, unusual setting, and visual humor," while a Kirkus Reviews critic described Wolf! Wolf! as "good-humored fun all around."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April, 2007, Deborah Stevenson, review of Wolf! Wolf!, p. 343.

Kirkus Reviews, February 15, 2007, review of Wolf! Wolf!

Publishers Weekly, February 19, 2007, review of Wolf! Wolf!, p. 168.

School Library Journal, February, 2007, Genevieve Gallagher, review of Wolf! Wolf!, p. 94.

ONLINE

John Rocco Home Page,http://www.roccoart.com (March 15, 2008).

John Rocco Web log,http://roccoart.blogspot.com/ (March 15, 2008).

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