Great Books Summer at Amherst and Stanford College Campus

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John Rocco

Award-winning author and illustrator

John Rocco 

John Rocco studied illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design and School of Visual Arts in New York City. Upon graduating he collaborated with actor/comedian Whoopi Goldberg creating the picture book Alice

Shortly after, he moved to Los Angeles where he worked as an art director for computer graphics pioneer Robert Abel, the man responsible for some of the very first CGI commercials and special effects. 

For the next fourteen years he continued to work as a creative director in the entertainment industry in the U.S. and abroad. As a member of the Walt Disney Imagineering  staff, he designed many attractions at Disney’s Epcot, including the Spaceship Earth Post-Show and the Mission Space Post-Show. While at WDI, he also served as the art director for DisneyQuest, an interactive theme park in Downtown Disney.  

At Dreamworks, he was the pre-production art director for the top grossing animated film Shrek, where he created hundreds of illustrations that helped the animators develop the final look of the film. He also held positions on several museum projects including the production designer for a 4D ride film at the Newseum in Washington D.C., as well as media creative director for Paul Allen’s Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame where he was responsible for designing the first film ever produced for exhibition on a completely spherical screen.

In 2005 he shifted his focus back to children’s books and created Wolf! Wolf! which garnered several awards including Borders Original Voices Award for best picture book. His next book, Moonpowder, was part of the Original Art Show at the Society of Illustrators, and artwork from the book was selected for a special nationwide traveling exhibition. In 2009  Fu Finds the Way, about a boy who finds courage in a pot of tea, was released; and published in 2011 is his picture book, Blackout, about one summer night in New York City when the power goes out. Among the many cover illustrations he has done, are the covers for Rick Riordan’s multi-million copy international bestselling YA series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, as well as The Kane Chronicles and The Heroes of Olympus, also by Riordan.    

John Rocco lives in Brooklyn with his wife, Aileen, their daughter, Alaya and their dog, Jag. He spends his time making new books, traveling the country speaking about his work, and restoring his family’s 1860’s Pennsylvania farmhouse inhabited by a family of mice, six bats and several chipmunks.

For more information on John Rocco please visit his website.

"I am deeply impressed by many aspects of this program, including the warmth and professionalism of the staff, the rigor and creativity of the curriculum, and the physical beauty of its setting. But what impresses me most, are the students themselves."

Dr. Debby Applegate, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

"Every summer, all I have to do is mosey on down from my hilltop home overlooking Amherst College, and walk into an ongoing conversation about the Big Stuff. It always feels like an intellectual transfusion."

Dr. Joseph J. Ellis, Pulitzer Prize-winning author

"I will mark Amherst as my most memorable event of the year, simply because of the smartest and most generous kids I was surrounded with. I wish they could be my students forever..." "

Da Chen, award-winning, best-selling author

"What a terrific curriculum and an enthusiastic group of young people. Made me want to drop everything and sign up."

Barry Eisler, best-selling author

"The students were such an engaged and smart and interesting group. I really enjoyed talking to them but mostly just appreciated being asked such a varied array of questions. It was a lot of fun."

Jacob Lewis, former managing editor of The New Yorker magazine and co-founder of

"The Great Books program is a midsummer night's dream- I adored the kids and it all felt so alive and was so much fun! The faculty was warm and embracing. So important to keep literature alive and connect with kids who want to read books! "

Laura Shaine Cunningham Memoirist, novelist, playwright and journalist

"I enjoyed talking to and listening to the your kids. They are an impressive bunch. "

Dr. Richard Reeves Award-winning author, journalist and documentary filmmaker

"I loved my experience with the Great Books Summer Program. The students were brilliant and involved even beyond my expectations, really the ideal young audience for a writer. "

Peter Straub, Award-winning author

"I give a lot of talks to a lot of groups all over the country and world, but I've never had a more engaged, interested and interesting audience than the students at the Great Books Summer Program. They were clearly primed to learn and think. I hope I gave them some useful ideas about writing and the writing life; I know they inspired me. "

Kurt Andersen, Award-winning author, editor and co-creator of Studio 360 radio show


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