Monday, November 24, 2008

Giant Slayer

Lot's of news...Here is the latest book jacket I have illustrated. It's called the Giant Slayer, and it is a wonderful story/fairytale. I am happy with the final art and I can't wait to see the finished book.

In other news...drum roll please...I have finished my newest picture book, Fu Finds the Way. It will come out in the fall of 2009 (not sure of the exact date yet) but I am very excited about it. Disney•Hyperion (the Publisher) went all out with the production. It is being printed on beautiful paper, with a cloth (yes, real cloth!) interior jacket. I started this book in 2001, shelved it, started sending it out in 2005 and got a few nice rejections, and now finally after seven years it is complete. Here is a mockup of the dust jacket...
And lastly, I was thrilled to find out that my art from Moonpowder, that was in the Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators was chosen to go on a traveling exhibition throughout the US along with 39 other pieces.

I am now hard at work on the artwork for the final installment of Rick Riordan's bestselling series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians. It is called "The Last Olympian" but I am pretty sure I won't be able to post anything on that until the book comes out in May. I read it though, and Percy fans will not be dissapointed.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Original Art Show and September News

I am happy to say that Moonpowder has been accepted into the Society of Illustrators "Original Art Show". Stop by the gallery between October 18th-Nov 26th at Society of Illustrators, 128 East 23rd st. (between Park and Lex.) NYC. There should be a plethora of great art to inspire us all.

In other news, my newest book "Boy Were We Wrong about the Solar System" written by Kathleen Kudlinski got a starred review from Kirkus. (Starred) Boy, Were We Wrong About the Solar System! Kathleen D.
Kudlinski. Illustrated by John Rocco. (Dutton 9780525469797)

The author of Boy, Were We Wrong About Dinosaurs! (2005) returns with
the story of humankind's changing understanding of outer space.
Beginning with the premise that the Earth was flat, Kudlinski shows how
early Greek astronomers came to realize it was round. But they thought
Earth was suspended in the sky-until the invention of telescopes showed
that it revolved around the Sun. Each new discovery seemed to prove old
beliefs wrong, right up to Pluto's recent demotion. Science marches
forward, with new information superseding the old-and the book ends with
the thrilling conclusion that one of its readers may someday disprove
the information it contains. Eschewing such potentially confusing
details as names and dates (both provided in a timeline in the
backmatter), the narrative provides just enough information to keep
young readers and listeners engaged. Rocco's illustrations grow more
colorful and realistic as the story moves into the modern age, matching
the text's smooth flow and sense of progress. A super introduction not
only to the solar system, but to the scientific method in action.
(further reading, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Right now I am busy trying to finish the paintings for my latest book "Fu Finds the Way" coming out in the Fall 2009 by Disney•Hyperion.
Needless to say, I am way behind, but hope to have it finished before the holidays kick in.
I will be heading to Louisville this weekend to speak at the Kentucky Reading Association Annual conference. Brian Selznick will also be speaking, so that should be fun.
And lastly, here is a very nice article in SCBWI magazine that Sam Wasson wrote about me. Thanks Sam!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Every Picture Tells A Story

Here is a couple pictures taken by Chris Swain of my reading at Every Picture in Los Angeles. Sitting with his lovely wife and daughter during the signing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Final Dormia and New Fu Paintings

Here is the final art for the Dormia cover I painted. I am really happy with the way it came out. Also, here are two of the latest paintings for "Fu finds the Way".

Monday, August 18, 2008

Busy Month

I know the month is only half over but I have been busy. On July 31st I had the amazing opportunity to read both Moonpowder and Wolf! Wolf! in the Sculpture Garden of the Museum of Modern Art. Right after the event, I jumped on a plane to Los Angeles to speak at the SCBWI summer conference. I saw lots of old friends and met a bunch of new ones. Had a great time hanging out with, Yuyi Morales, Jim Averbeck, Adam Rex, Dan Santat, Christian Hill, Pat Cummings, Namrata Tripathi (my fabulous editor) and many others.
During the conference I snuck out to go do a reading and sign books at Every Picture Tells A Story. It was a dual show of my art along with the great Greg Hildebrandt. Sort of an odd pairing, but he was a swell guy and we had a great time. A lot of my LA friends were there and that made it extra special.
Highlights of the conference:
-Yuyi Morales's acceptance speach. It was poetic, heartfelt and she received a well deserved standing ovation.
-Trying to scalp drink tickets with Dan Santat. enough said.
-Bruce Coville gave an amazing talk. Go see him speak if you can!
-I really enjoyed doing the portfolio and manuscript reviews.
-Signing books between Adam Rex and Mark Teague. (also a lowlight when my line dwindled and there's seem to be endless. I was like Moses parting the Red Sea.)
-Meeting Dilys Evans and discussing the art of children's books with her. She was very enthusiastic and supportive of my art and gave me some terrific advice that was well camouflaged in a compliment. Thanks Dilys! I will make sure my books have room to breathe!

After the conference I flew home to do a signing at Barnes and Noble in Union Square. It was fun because some folks from my writers group were there, as well as my Dad.
Now, back to work...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Building a Dining Room Table...

Recently my wife and daughter went on a trip for 2 weeks leaving me by myself in our old country house. I had plenty of art to do for my next book, but I was aching to build something with wood. It felt like a manly thing to do. And I desperately needed to do something manly. With tools! So here is how I built our new dining table. The dimensions are 8ft long by 42" wide and 31" high. If I were to do it again I would make it 30" high.
First I found some great old oak baseboards that were stashed away in the attic of our house. they were slightly warped and filled with nail holes and covered with stain. I would have guessed them to be over 100 years old.I used a belt sander ($60.00 at Home Depot) and gave all the boards a rough sanding to remove the old stain and grime.
Next, using pony clamps, I glued the boards together one at a time. Allowing 6 hours for them to dry between boards. It was important to alternate the clamps (one above and one below) to keep the boards straight. I know, I know it's not that way in this picture, but I was trying to straighten out a warp that was already in the boards.
once all seven boards were glued together, I filled in all the cracks and nail holes with stainable wood putty.
Then I started some serious sanding. First with 80 grit, then 120 grit and finally 150 grit sand paper.

The next thing was to add end caps to both ends of the table top. Not only was this for aesthetic reasons, but it also helps strengthen the table and allows for all the boards to swell and contract without cracking or warping as much. First I cut a straight edge along the ends of my glued boards. Then I drilled 1/4" holes in the end of each board...
and using a little metal point shoved into the hole I could make a mark on the end cap where I needed to drill the matching hole. Once the holes were drilled on both sides I glued in the dowels to connect the boards. then the entire end cap fit into the dowels and was glued and clamped for six hours. I repeated this process with the other side.
Next I finished the end caps with some nifty oak plugs to give it a nice look. You can buy the oak plugs already made. Drill the hole, hammer them in, and sand them down. Presto!
Next I started to build the legs. I used pine for the legs because I wanted the legs to be a slightly different color than the top or the apron that goes under the top.

Once I had the legs glued and doweled to the apron sides, I fitted the whole base together. This was a dry fitting though (no glue) because I needed to take it apart to bring it to my loft in Brooklyn. It never would have fit in the door otherwise.
Here is the table assembled. I put three oak buttons in the side to represent my wife, my daughter and me.
Then I started staining. I used Minwax combination stain and urathane. This would give it color and protection.

In between each layer of stain and urathane (sp?) I rubbed the surface down with a very fine steel wool. This made it smooth like butter! Although my arms felt like they were going to fall off!
here is the finished table in my loft. A proud moment for me as I have not built anything from wood since I was about 12 years old.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Dormia Sketch

A sketch for a new book jacket for Houghton Mifflin called Dormia. This is a wraparound jacket. I should have the final painting up in a couple weeks. In the meantime I will post some more "Fu" paintings as I get them done.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Latest Fu Paintings

Here are a couple of nearly finished paintings for my next book. Can you tell what it's about?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Melrose School...Jamestown RI

I had a great visit to the Melrose School in Jamestown RI a couple weeks back. The kids were great and had fantastic questions. We discussed bookmaking, making theme parks and what it might be like to ride in a rocket! Just today, in the mail, I received this fabulous poster signed by all the kids. I have to share a poem that one student named Lily wrote:

Moonpowder is magical,
Moonpowder is the best,
Helping and pleasing little kids
When they lie down to rest.

Thanks Lily! And a big thanks to the fabulous Librarian, Lisa Casey, and all the students of Melrose School!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Robin Williams Reads Moonpowder

I heard through the grapevine that Robin Williams had read "Moonpowder" at the recent "Time For Heroes" Celebrity fund raiser in LA. After scouring the internet for actual proof of this momentous news, I found some photos.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Moonpowder has Arrived!!

My latest book, Moonpowder is in stores now! So put your computer to sleep and go out and smack down $15.99 for 48 pages of fun! That's 50% more book for the same price as your average 32 pager. And the pages are nice and thick, giving it a hefty weight of 1.5 lbs! Compared to your average 15 oz picture book, Moonpowder is a heavyweight.
Here is a recent review from Booklist,

"...Eli's foray to the factory in his helio-rocket-copter provides ample opportunity for Rocco's fabulous artwork. His inventive paintings, done in deep, rich colors of night and tinged with gold, are used in spreads, panels, and full pages. The mechanical "gizbots" inside the factory, adjusting valves and dials, along with the intricate hand drawings of the factory's inner workings, will keep children, especially the mechanically inclined, totally fascinated. Although the story may not have quite as much magic as the artwork, the ending, which brings Eli's soldier father home, is sweet and satisfying. This will sustain many readings." -Ilene Cooper, Booklist

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Cleveland Trip, Books of Wonder and other things

Last weekend was a trip to Cleveland to speak at the Margaret Skiff Literature conference. There were about 200 librarians and teachers in attendance. The speakers were, Pat Cummings, William Low, Denise Fleming and myself. Pat had some hysterical stories about her childhood and showed some work from her books "Talking with Artists". William Low also gave a great presentation on his process for working digitally. I have always been a fan of William's work, so it was a treat to spend the weekend with him. My talk was about how I got into the business and how I made "Wolf! Wolf!". It is always hard to tell how your own talk went, but I think it went well. Finally Denise Fleming brought the house down with her zaniness, and gave a fantastic demonstration of her paper-making technique.
When I came back from Cleveland I did my first in-store signing for Moonpowder at the Books of Wonder in NYC. There was a decent size crowd, but to be honest I think doing a signing with Lane Smith and Etienne Delessert didn't hurt! I also had the pleasure of meeting Dave Horowitz, the maker of some very funny books including "Five Little Gefiltes". It turns out he and I share a mutual friend, Tylor Durand, of the band "The Hornrims".

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bryant Park

Yesterday I had the extreme pleasure of doing a book reading in Bryant Park. It was part of the Children's Book Week celebration hosted by the Children's Book Council. I was thrilled to be introduced by one of my favorite authors...the Ambassador of Children's books, Jon Scieszka.
Greg Foley read from his "Thank You Bear" and "Don't Worry Bear" books, and Jack Lechner read from his very funny "Mary Had a Little Lamp" illustrated by the talented Bob Staake.
It was a fun day in the park and I was joined by my wife and daughter and a bunch of friends. My daughter was excited to hang out with Curious George and Clifford the Big Red Dog, but she was really enthralled with the man in the Lion costume. (I don't know what book he was from) After we all went to the Oyster Bar in Grand Central station to celebrate the Day before Mother's Day!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

FIT judging

I had the pleasure of judging the senior illustration exhibit last week at the Fashion Institute of Technology. There were some incredible illustrations to choose from. There were about eight of us judging and most were faculty from FIT. In the end I think we chose some very well executed illustrations as the winners. One of the illustrations that I liked very much was a digital painting that looked like something from the production design of an animated film. It was beautiful, and yet had the unfinished look of production art that is so common. In judging the show, I had to ask myself "would I hire this person to illustrate_______(insert job here) ie: children's book, editorial, advertising etc. It was a great day of looking at art, meeting new illustrators and eating bags of bagels!

On another note, here is a picture of me and my editor, Namrata Tripathi (left) and my art director, Christine Kettner, at the Border Concept store in Ann Arbor, MI. I wish every Borders had that many copies of my book!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Borders OV awards

I just got back from Ann Arbor MI where I received my Original Voices Award from the fine people at Borders bookstores. The event was really great, and it took place at one of their new "concept" stores which had all the bells and whistles of a theme park for books! My editor, Nami, and my art director, Christine, where there with me which was great because it was a whirlwind day. First stop was the Borders headquarters where I had lunch with the ten committee members who chose my book as this years winner. Next we got a tour of the concept store, then in the back of the store there was a little stage along with giant posters of the four winning book jackets. (Fiction, Non-Fiction, YA/independent reader, and Picture Book). Around 5 o'clock the crowd started building and the award ceremony began. I was up first and here is the speech I read:

When I was 7 years old I won a coloring contest at a toy store in my hometown. I found out when I received an envelope in the mail with my name on it. Inside was a note of congratulations AND a gift certificate for $15 to use in the store. My math might be suspect but in 1974 that was equivalent to about $1 million dollars. I was bouncing of the walls. It was two agonizing days before my mother actually drove me to the store so that I could clean out their stock of super-balls, bat kites and balsa wood gliders.

When we arrived at the store, I jumped out of the car and ran towards the door, ready to set their cash registers ablaze, but I stopped dead in my tracks. There, hanging in the window of the Ben Franklin 5 and Dime was my Art. First prize…John Rocco…7 years old.
I stood there staring at it, filling up with pride till I was about to burst, knees shaking, eyes starting to burn. My mother stood smiling, holding the door open for me. I calmly walked in and bought $15 dollars worth of crayons and construction paper.

33 years later, I walk in to a Borders in Los Angeles, about to give one of my first public readings of the first book I had ever written. There was a sign announcing my arrival, as well as a borders employee standing just inside the door holding a copy of Wolf! Wolf! and telling everyone who walked in the door about the reading. He was about to tell me about the reading, then a look of recognition came over his face. “Welcome to Borders Mr. Rocco, were so glad you could come read your book today. We all love it.” I felt 7 years old again, but in a good way. Overcome with the kind of pride and joy that Seven year olds can only express by bouncing around as if they have to pee real bad.

First off, I would like to thank my fantastic teammates at Hyperion. Namrata Tripathi, my fabulous editor, for helping me find my voice. Christine Kettner, my savvy Art Director, for gently guiding my vision. And everyone else at Hyperion who make creating books for children such a joy.

I would also like to thank Borders, not only for this incredible honor, but for making me feel seven years old again…in a good way.
Thank You.

I was presented with the award which is actually a copy of my book encased in glass, which I thought was really cool. I will always have a pristine copy of my book in it's own little time capsule. I will try to post pictures soon. (My camera

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

PS 58 photos

Here are some photos of my recent visit to PS 58 in Brooklyn...

This is me and Giselle Gault, the principal of PS 58. The last time I was this close to a principal I was getting detention! She was super enthusiastic and I did NOT get detention.

I even got to try out their 1950's intercom system. Still in working order, no less.

Monday, April 07, 2008

PS 58 School Visit

I had a great time speaking to about 90 kids at the Carroll School (PS 58) last week. Their teachers had been prepping them all week, so when I arrived these guys and gals knew their stuff! I was especially thrilled with the audible gasps of excitement when I pulled out Moonpowder to read to them. I hadn't realized that the teachers had galley copies of the book (which doesn't come out until May 27th) and had been reading to the kids. I signed about 120 copies of Wolf! Wolf! and I think everyone had a good time. I know I did! Thanks PS 58!

Children's Literature Conference in WA

At the beginning of March I was a speaker at the Bond Children's literature conference in Bellingham Washington. It was a fantastic event and about 400 wonderfully enthusiastic teachers and librarians and fans of children's books attended. The other speakers were, Chris Crutcher, Christopher Paul Curtis and Eric Rohmann. Needless to say I was in some pretty decorated company. Between them they have a Caldecott Medal (ER), a Newbery Medal(CPC), Coretta Scott King Award (CPC) and the Margaret A. Edwards Award for Lifetime Achievement (CC). At first I was slightly intimidated, but these guys were great and made me feel right at home. One of the highlights for me was having a quiet breakfast Sunday morning with Eric while we discussed my next book projects. He had some terrific ideas and we had a great time discussing the art of the picture book. I look forward to meeting up with these guys again in the near future!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

SCBWI Winter Conference

I was told I need to start blogging more. Yes I admit, I have been really, really bad about it. I recently attended my 5th SCBWI conference, and again, I learned some new things. There were some terrific and inspiring keynotes; Richard Peck( A Year Down Yonder), Susan Patron (Higher Power of Lucky) and David Weisner (Tuesday, Flotsam) stood out for me. It was terrific to see David's process on how he created Flotsam.

One of the things I found interesting at this conference was all the talk about what Publishers are looking for. I could feel the audience, including myself, going over all the manuscripts in their heads, asking "do I have something that is like that?" "Perhaps I can adjust that ms to meet that need?" "Maybe I should write a biography piece?" "Maybe my art should be more like that?". This bothered me, because I know, deep down, that not of it matters. If you are working from your soul, writing and illustrating the things that you love to write and illustrate, good things will happen. Do you really think David Weisner asks himself "I wonder what kind of book will sell well?" Do you think Brian Selznick made Hugo Cabret because he saw a niche that needed to be filled? Do you think Susan Patron used the word "scrotum" because she thought the publicity would sell more books? NO. You have to write and illustrate the things you love. Don't worry about the rest. Get lost in your process, worry about the rest when your done. Otherwise your chasing a moving, and fickle target.

On another note, I was really happy for a fellow SCBWI'er, Jim Carol, who won the Portfolio Award. His work is beautiful, AND he is a great guy. I wish him the best of luck getting published.