February 23 – National Tile Day


About the Holiday

Today’s holiday was established just last year and celebrates that architectural accent that has given exteriors and interiors pizazz and individuality since ancient times. Made in nearly every color, pattern, and shape imaginable, tiles were once all handmade and available only to the wealthy few. Innovations during the Industrial Revolution allowed tile to be mass produced and, thus, affordable to many. Tile has become a favorite decoration in homes across the world—as any HGTV viewer knows!

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid

By Jeanette Winter


Growing up in Iraq, Zaha Hadid sees the way rivers brake up the marshland, watches when the wind sculpts sand dunes, and visits the ruins of ancient cities. At home in Baghdad, young Zaha studies the patterns of her Persian carpet, noticing “how the shapes and colors flow into each other, like the dunes and rivers and marshes” and dreaming of designing her own cities.


Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

In her room, she arranges and rearranges the furniture, creates her own clothes, and comes up with ideas. When Zaha grows up, she moves to London to study to be an architect. After graduation, she opens an office in an old school building—Studio 9. Zaha is joined by some friends and they work tirelessly on their architectural drawings.


Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

“Zaha’s designs don’t look like other designs. Her buildings swoosh and zoom and flow and fly. ‘The world is not a rectangle’” she says. But Zaha cannot find anyone to build her designs; everyone says they are impossible. Finally, one of Zaha’s designs is chosen from among all the others in a competition. When it is presented to the city’s committee, however, they reject it. Another competition is held, and Zaha’s design wins again. The city rejects it again. Zaha is as strong as her name Hadid, which means iron in Arabic, and she continues to design plan after plan.


Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Then one by one her plans are accepted. She “remembers the grasses in the marshes swaying” and designs tall towers “dancing like grass.” In the desert, she creates a building that allows the wind to blow over and around and through it. The sports stadium she imagines has the beauty of a cocoon. Remembering the stones in a stream, Zaha “builds an opera house like the pebbles in the water. Inside the opera house, a singer is the pearl in the oyster shell.”


Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

The swirling stars in far-away galaxies inspire a complex of connected buildings, and the undulating waves become the model for a bridge that seems to move with the water. From looking at the Alps, Zaha fashions a museum built “inside a mountain peak with windows to see the sky and the valleys” and a ski jump that “reaches to the sky like the mountain.” From the “jungle and ancient wood temples,” Zaha draws inspiration for “a wooden building to remember a faraway war.”


Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

With every building, Zaha gets busier and busier more than four hundred architects are working in that old school building, “designing, planning, engineering, and making models of Zaha’s visions.” But Zaha’s ideas don’t stop at buildings. She believes “you should do what you like,” so she designs doll houses, shoes, chairs, sculpture, and benches. No matter what she designs, Zaha’s early memories return. She thinks of “the beauty of the landscape—where sand, water, reeds, birds, buildings, and people all somehow flow together” and never loses her belief in the impossible.

Even though the light in Zaha’s office is now dark, “her architects keep their lights on—designing, planning, engineering, and making models of her visions, keeping her flame blazing bright.”


Copyright Jeanette Winter, 2017, courtesy of Beach Lane Books.

Following the text, readers can learn the name and location of each building, discover more information about Zaha Hadid’s life and awards, and read more of her own words about her work.

Jeanette Winter shines a light on an architect who will inspire children not only with her work but with her original ideas, self-confidence, and refusal to compromise on her beliefs. Winter combines straightforward passages of Zaha’s childhood and early professional struggles with lyrical phrasing that describes her influences in nature and her soaring buildings. Sprinkled throughout are Zaha’s own words that define her ideas and ideals.

In her dreamlike illustrations, Winter clearly depicts Zaha Hadid’s inspirations and the way in which she interpreted each natural motion, shape, or phenomenon in steel, glass, concrete, or wood. Winter’s pages swirl, shimmer, flow, and soar, and Zaha is always there, seeing, thinking, envisioning, and drawing.

An excellent biography of a strong and creative woman who has designed some of the world’s most beautiful and original buildings, The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid would be a superb addition to classroom discussions and home story times.

Ages 5 – 10

Beach Lane Books, 2017 | ISBN 978-1481446693

National Tile Day Activity


I (Heart) Tiles! Coloring Page


With colorful tiles you can make beautiful pictures. Put your imagination to work and color this I (Heart) Tiles! Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

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