Dreaming Up

A Celebration of Building
October 2012. 40p. 978-1-60060-651-9. 18.95.
K-Gr 3–A clever introduction to architecture. Each spread shows children playing on one side and a photograph of a famous building on the other. The children, done with watercolor in a fairly standard illustrative style, are pictured working with toys that mirror the form of the featured buildings. For example, a baby’s stacking rings are shown opposite  the Guggenheim Museum, and wooden blocks mirror the shape of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. Each spread also contains a short poem, many rhyming, that describes the youngster’s play. The poems are printed in large font and are typeset to complement the shape of the architecture pictured. They are age appropriate and well crafted; for example, the one for the Montreal Biosphere reads, “Easy peasy as can be/toothpicks joining one, two, three.”  Back matter includes brief paragraphs about each building and mini portraits and paragraphs about the architects, who come from a variety of countries; most are men. This book is more accessible than J. Patrick Lewis’s Monumental Verse (National Geographic, 2005) or a more factual text like Culture in Action: Architecture (Raintree, 2009) and is a good precursor for either of them.-Donna Cardon, Provo City Library, UT
Fifteen childhood building projects are deftly rendered in concrete poems and mixed-media collages, each paired with a photo of an iconic building bearing a resemblance. A toddler's upside-down stack of graduated plastic doughnuts look like Wright's Guggenheim Museum; a snowball igloo mirrors a sample shelter for living on Mars. Hale suggests that using what's at hand to "dream up" new things is vital to creativity.
Building -- with blocks or sand, sticks or other improvisatory materials -- is one of childhood's most entertaining forms of play. Here, fifteen such play building projects are deftly rendered in mixed-media collage and paired with photos of iconic buildings that look like they could have been inspired by imaginative children's constructions. A toddler's upside-down stack of graduated plastic doughnuts resembles Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum; a "pillow fort" mimics Frank Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim. Concrete poems describe the children's structures: "Blankets flung, stretched chair to chair -- soft roof arcs low. / A cozy place, a hideaway, / where you and I can go"; facing is Tokyo's Yoyogi National Stadium with its enormous swooping roof, identified only -- as are all the buildings and their architects -- in endnotes, leaving readers free to make their own connections first. The structures include a house of cards (they "slice through space / …hold still this / moment / of / balance") opposite an amazing German fire station that does indeed resemble a house of cards; an igloo of snowballs mirrors what is identified in the endnotes as a sample shelter for living on Mars. While lots of books show children how to play, this one suggests that using what's at hand to "dream up" new things is vital to creativity: as the book's epigraph says, "If they can dream it, they can build it." joanna rudge long

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