Thursday, April 17, 2014

Loved To Pieces. . .with John Rocco (and a Giveaway!)

Today, we are thrilled to welcome award-winning author and artist John Rocco to the Cottage. As creators go, John is as versatile and prolific as they come. From illustrating Rick Riordan's internationally bestselling Percy Jackson and The Olympians covers, to bringing to life the world of Katherine and James Patterson's fantasy The Flint Heart, to penning and illustrating the sublime Caldecott-honor-book Blackout, to his latest project, Swim That Rock--a teen novel he co-wrote an illustrated with his friend and fellow writer Jay Primiano--John's body of work is pretty awe-inspiring. So, we were fascinated to hear which childhood book holds a special place in his memory.

John chose Little Richard by Patricia M. Scarry, illustrated by Cyndy Szekeres.

Tell us about the book...

"Sometimes books can be time travel machines. You might just glimpse the cover, or see your name scrawled in Crayola on the end pages, or run your finger over the bite marks, or sometimes it’s the smell of it that takes you back. However it’s triggered, suddenly there you are, all warm in your footed pajamas, curled up on the couch with the reader du jour, and every ounce of your focus on the story in front of you. 

This is what Little Richard did to me. In 2004, I was helping my mother move out of the house I grew up in when I discovered a stash of my children’s books in the bottom of a closet. Amongst an almost unhealthy amount of Dr. Seuss books, there was Little Richard. My friend. The wonderful prose of Scarry’s words, combined with the incredible playfulness and warmth of Szekeres’s drawings, create a world that absorbed every fiber of my being.

Little Richard and Porcupine were as real to me as my sister or my parents. In 2006, my daughter was born, and it was with great joy that I was able to introduce her to my friends, Little Richard and Porcupine."

John Rocco studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design and School of Visual Arts in New York City. He is the author of many acclaimed books for children Wolf! Wolf!, winner of the Borders Original Voices Award for best picture book; Moonpowder, part of the Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators; Fu Finds the Way, and Blackout, a New York Times Best Book of the Year and winner of a 2012 Caldecott Honor.

John also illustrated Whoopi Goldberg‘s Alice and the covers for Rick Riordan‘s multi-million copy internationally bestselling series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Kane Chronicles, and The Heroes of Olympus, as well as the fantasy fairytale, The Flint Heart, written by Katherine Patterson and her husband, John.

His most recent book, Swim That Rock, is a young adult novel he co-wrote with his childhood friend, poet and performer, Jay Primiano. The story is largely based on their own childhood and teen experiences as clam fisherman on the Rhode Island coast.

John  lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Aileen and their daughter, Alaya. Learn more about John's work at his website:  For more about Swim That Rock, visit the authors' blog.

If you are in the Rhode Island area, John and Jay will be signing books at Barrington Books, in Barrington, Rhode Island, on Saturday, April 26th from 11am-1pm (visit on the store's Facebook page for details) as well as an evening launch party at 7pm, at the Jamestown Arts Center in Jamestown, Rhode Island.

If Rhode Island is a little too far away for you to visit, worry not, fair readers! The Crooked Cottagers are giving away a signed copy of Swim That Rock to one lucky fan! Leave a comment in the comments section below, and we'll choose a random winner on Saturday, April 26th, the day of John & Jay's launch events!

Here's a synopsis of the book:

Swim That Rock
by John Rocco and Jay Primiano
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6905-8
April, 2014; Candlewick Press

When fourteen-year-old Jake’s dad goes missing in a fishing-boat accident, he refuses to think he may have lost his father forever. Suddenly, nothing is certain in Jake’s future, and he must struggle to help save the local diner his mother runs from being repossessed by loan sharks. In Narragansett Bay, scrabbling out a living catching quahogs isn’t easy, but with the help of some local clammers, Jake is determined to work hard and earn enough money to ensure his family’s security and save the diner in time. Told with cinematic suspense and a true compassion for the characters, Swim That Rock is a fast-paced coming of age story that beautifully and evocatively captures the essence of coastal Rhode Island life, the struggles of blue-collar family dynamics, and the dreams of one boy to come into his own.



  1. Reminds me of I Am A Bunny by Richard Scarry featuring Nicholas!

  2. I can completely relate to that feeling of finding an old friend in a book from childhood. I love to rummage through all the old kids books at my parents house. Especially fun to rediscover once faithful companions that had faded from memory.

  3. My family loves BLACKOUT! My oldest son is looking forward to reading the new novel. Thanks for sharing. Sincerely, Ellen Greene

  4. I wish I could get out to the signing. I am sure this will be a great read. I confess, my favorite John Rocco book might be How to Train a Train. Have you read it? Awesomeness!

  5. Congratulations, Joanne Roberts! You won a copy of the acclaimed YA novel SWIM THAT ROCK, signed by award-winning author-illustrator John Rocco! Enjoy! Please email your mailing address to littlecrookedcottage@gmail , and we'll send you your prize.