About the Holiday
Originally observed on July 1, World Architecture Day was moved to the first Monday in October to coincide with the United Nations World Habitat Day. Today we take time to consider the importance of architecture in our lives and the impact architects have in making our cities, towns, homes, and other buildings comfortable and functional. A focus on sustainability gives architects new challenges and goals for a brighter future. To celebrate today take a walk around your town or city and study the buildings and how they fit into the vision for your area or research a famous building – there are so many to choose from!
Roberto the Insect Architect
By Nina Laden
Even as a little bugger Roberto the termite “went against the grain.” While he liked the usual meal fare of oak, maple, and pine, Roberto would be more likely to play with his food than eat it, building tall towers on his plate. The other termites didn’t understand and laughed at him. Roberto knew that if he wanted to build the life he wanted, he would have to leave town.
Roberto moved to the city, dreaming of using his talents and being accepted, “but hope didn’t come cheap in the big city. Neither did a place to live. Roberto had no choice but to rent a room in a flea-bag hotel run by a nervous tick.” The next day he hit the pavement looking for a job. He talked to Hank Floyd Mite, who was only interested in what buildings Roberto had already designed. Fleas Van Der Rohe dismissed Roberto, saying “‘There are no termites in my houses’” and Antonia Gaudi rudely “blurted out, ‘Don’t bug me!’”
As Roberto dejectedly headed home, he was swarmed by other bugs with bigger problems than his: a fly had no home, a carpenter ant was trying in vain to fix his ramshackle shed, roaches were fleeing a diner, and “a frantic ladybug flew into his arms crying, ‘My house is on fire and my children are gone!’” Roberto wanted to help them all, “but what could one termite do? ‘A lot of damage,’ Fleas Van Der Rohe had told him.”
Roberto vowed to show Fleas and all the others what he could do. He drew up blue prints for a one-of-a-kind neighborhood then went in search for the perfect location. When he found a block of abandoned buildings, Roberto got to work. He built day and night and “transformed the block of junk into a street of extraordinary homes, each one unique and a work of art.” Roberto anonymously sent the keys to the homes to the insects he had met earlier.
Each home perfectly matched the need of its owner. Soon the city was abuzz with the news of these amazing homes, and everyone from Barbara Waterbugs to Steve Shieldbug wanted to tell the architect’s story—but who was it? Bounty-hunting butterflies, paper wasps, and bold weevils went in search of the builder’s identity. Finally, “a click beetle got the shot.” The next morning Roberto was all over the news. He became a celebrity with job offers, book offers, offers of love, and parties galore. A statue in his honor was even placed in the city park.
With all the acclaim he had attracted, Roberto established his own company. He became more than a famous architect, he became a role model for other aspiring little mites. Now when they “play with their food,” their parents encourage them: “‘Be creative!’ Maybe someday you’ll grow up to be just like Roberto.’”
Employing a perfect swarm of insect puns, plays on words, and riffs on insect habits, Nina Laden swats it out of the park in her laugh-out-loud termite-out-of-woodwork story. The straight narration of Roberto’s quest for architectural greatness is tinged with the tones of noir private-eye novels, and his encounters with “famous” architects and insects in need give Laden the perfect palette for her visual and literary humor.
Laden’s mixed-media illustrations are layered with allusions to classic art, the world’s great cities, and products from the past. It all adds up to a stunning visual feast, whether you have two eyes or eight. Kids will love discovering all the hidden jokes on each page, and adults will appreciate the nods toward celebrities as well as the fads of their childhood.
Newly published in paperback, Roberto the Insect Architect offers a fresh take on the idea that you should follow your dreams and your heart. The book would make a fun addition to a child’s library and could jumpstart a study of architecture and its designers as well as an entomology unit in school classrooms.
Ages 5 – 9
Chronicle Books, 2016 | ISBN 978-1452156460
To view a gallery full of books by Nina Laden, visit her website!
World Architecture Day Activity
World Monuments Word Scramble
Picture Book Review