John Rocco

John Rocco: Finding what you love at the library

"At the library you could find what you love and take it home with you."

Well, the first memory I have of going to the library getting my library card, which was now, thirty-nine years ago.

I got my very first library card. It was the first thing that I had with my name on it and meant I could take stuff from the library and I've had a library card ever since. I have one on me right now.

[Which library is it?] The New York Public Library.

It was both the library and my father who had tons of books in the house, but most of his books were on clinical chemistry and toxicology, so for me, I had to get my books from the library.

I loved it. I loved going there.

It was an experience where you could go in and find what you love and take it home with you. My daughter and I try to go to the library often. I have her library card somewhere here, too. And she loves that experience.

She will sift through many, many, many books, so I think the last time I went to the library with her, I had to read about twenty-five books to her, and then we decided on five.

My very first librarian was Mrs. Burkhardt, and she was the librarian in Barrington Public Library, where I grew up in Rhode Island, and later, I realized that I went to school with her daughter, and I thought that was really cool that her Mom was a librarian. And so she was kind of a celebrity in our class.

I do research in the library, and the New York Public Library has a gigantic picture collection, which is phenomenal, and so you can go in there and look up a subject. Say you want pictures of Irish Setters running. You will find a whole folder of pictures of Irish Setters running.

And so, as an illustrator, it's great to be able to have access to that kind of thing, which is not the same kind of stuff you'll find on the Internet. Although they're putting it all on the Internet, which is great if I ever leave New York.

Well I think it's extremely important to preserve the libraries, because they provide a place where kids and adults,  but I'm more focused on the children, and getting books in their hands. And so that's the first place that they can go and get books in their hands for free.

That's such an important thing. It's, like, more important than a passport or a driver's license or anything like that, because you can take that card and you can go places in your mind.

[On censorship] I can only hope to have a banned book some day. [laughs]

You know, I think banned books explore ideas  that that make people...that move people. And they move some people in the right way, and they move some people in the wrong way.

And I think that this country as a whole is not going to hide that, but obviously anything worth fighting for is usually a good thing. We have to fight for the right to read those books.

Well, my latest project, I have two books coming out. One that just came out called "Blackout." And it's a picture book loosely based on the blackout that was experienced on the Eastern Seaboard in 2003.

And I also have a book that I illustrated with Katherine Paterson. It's a middle-grade novel called "The Flint Heart." And that's that's what's going on.


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New York Public Library