October 15 -Bridge Day


About the Holiday

Today’s holiday hosts the largest formalized jumping event in the world and celebrates BASE jumpers, those intrepid souls who test their mettle against the highest points, including buildings, antennas, cliffs, and bridges. Recognized since 1980 Bridge Day is a world-wide event, and while it may not officially be about the bridges, it brings attention to these beautiful architectural marvels while extreme sports aficionados and their fans gather on spans across the globe to have fun.

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray

Written by Dave Eggers | Illustrated by Tucker Nichols


“In the beginning there was a bridge.” Well, to back up a bit there was a bay that led to the Pacific Ocean. The opening between the two shores that enclosed the bay was called the Golden Gate. “On one side of the Golden Gate was the Presidio, a military base at the top of the city of San Francisco. On the other side there were only hills, green and yellow, rising high above the sea.” Beyond these hills towns dotted the coastline.

People traveled between these shores by boat or by driving way out of their way. Many times people had thought about building a bridge across the bay, but they were afraid it would ruin the beauty of the land. At last it was decided that a bridge should be built. The year was 1928 and Joseph Strauss, an expert on bridges, was hired to design it. What he came up with looked more like the skeleton of a roller coaster, and while it would be strong, it would also be ugly.


Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

People agreed that for such a beautiful spot, a beautiful bridge was needed. Joseph Strauss then asked for help in developing a plan for the bridge. Leon Moisseiff, known for designing the Manhattan Bridge in New York, came on board. Leon’s idea was for “a suspension bridge, one with swooping lines and tall towers.” The drawings were light and airy and…beautiful. People liked it very much.

“But still the bridge appeared a bit stern in style. So Joseph and Leon asked another person, named Irving Morrow, to help out.” Irving and his wife Gertrude had a different idea about what the bridge could be. With vertical fluting, “art deco flourishes,” pedestrian walkways, and curved lamps lighting the way, “the bridge could be both a bridge and something like art.”

Steelworkers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey built the pieces of the bridge. They were shipped to California by train and by boat. Finally, it was time to construct the bridge. Men had to dive deep into the icy waters of the Pacific Ocean and climb high into the sky while constructing it. It was estimated that it would take 4 years and thousands of workers to finish it.


Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

First the tall towers were constructed. The day they were finished was one of “jubilation” and awe as“sometimes the things humans make baffle even the humans who make them. One aspect of the bridge that had not been decided was the color, and many people had opinions on that. “The Navy thought it should be yellow and black so that ships and planes could easily see it.”

“The Army wanted it to look like a candy cane for the same reason the Navy wanted it to look like a tiger with jaundice: so that it would be easily seen by planes and ships.” Most people, though, thought the bridge should be painted black, white, or gray like most other monuments, towers, and buildings. Right now, the bridge was orange—coated with a special anti-rust paint. As Irving Morrow watched the bridge go up, he thought this orange was a beautiful color.

He suggested that the bridge be allowed to stay this color. Others thought he was “nuts.” Never had there been an orange bridge before, “and for a good portion of the human race, because something has not already been, that is a good reason to fear it coming to be.” But the people of San Francisco began to see things Irving’s way. Still, gray seemed to be the safe choice.


Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

Irving, who was usually a shy and quiet sort, began to get vocal about his color preference as the completion date of the bridge came closer. Other’s began to echo his thoughts and arguments. “This bridge will not be gray!” they said. At last “the powers that be” agreed with Irving. The bridge remained orange: International Orange, in fact.

But because the wind, rain, and sun are harsh on the orange bridge, it needs to be repainted every year. Every day some part of it is being painted by dedicated workers. Is that crazy? Maybe, “But people love to paint it, and people love to look at it. The Golden Gate Bridge, which is orange, is the best-known and best-loved bridge in the world” because it is “bold and courageous and unusual and even strange.”


Image copyright Tucker Nichols, courtesy of mcsweeneys.net

San Francisco resident Dave Eggers has written a loving tribute not only about the very distinctive Golden Gate Bridge but to the equally distinctive, quirky, and even courageous Irving Morrow, other architects, and people of the Bay area who saw and championed art where others may only have seen function. Passages of straightforward narration are joined by rivets of whimsically inserted dialogue, soaring description, and moving insight to construct a lyrical story of vision and inspiration that both kids and adults will find fascinating.  

Tucker Nichols’ paper cut illustrations are as playful and full of imagination as a kindergarten classroom. Using simple shapes and a gorgeous palette Nichols crafts portraits, collages, and landscapes that are movingly effective in depicting the San Francisco Bay area, the rising Golden Gate Bridge, and the personalities involved in this fun history of a beloved monument.

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray is a must for school and public libraries, a wonderfully inspiring addition to children’s bookshelves, and a colorful coffee table book for any home.

Ages 4 – 10 and up

McSweeney’s, 2015 | ISBN 978-1940450476

Click here to learn more about Tucker Nichols and his work.

Bridge Day Activity


Golden Gate Bridge Coloring Page


Get out your markers, colored pencils, or crayons and color this printable Golden Gate Bridge Coloring Page!

Picture Book Review

October 3 – World Architecture Day


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.


Image and text copyright Nina Laden, courtesy of Chronicle Books

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.”


Image and text copyright Nina Laden, courtesy of Chronicle Books

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


Use the clues to unscramble the names of 16 world-famous buildings and landmarks in this printable World Monuments Word Scramble Puzzle! Here’s the Solution!

Picture Book Review