December 17 – Celebrating Read a New Book Month with Art

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About the Holiday

Today, I’m featuring another interactive book that will get young readers excited about learning more about art—or in this case—architecture. A great book can help kids find role models from the past or today that they can connect with philosophically and creatively. A book that touches on, validates, and encourages a child’s talent or dream is a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Meet the Architect! Frank Lloyd Wright

By Patricia Geis

 

Artists can be endlessly fascinating not only for their work but for their lives, which influence where they get their ideas, how they create each piece, and what made them an artist in the first place. In Meet the Architect! Frank Lloyd Wright, readers get an opportunity to discover the backstory, the influences, the three architectural rules, the clients, and, of course, the buildings of this master architect, whose mother predicted his profession before he was even born and “surrounded his crib with drawings of cathedrals.” This deep dive into Frank Lloyd Wright’s life is accomplished not only through text, but with little fold-outs that are themselves illustrated booklets, 3D popups, illustrated panels that extent the pages, tabs, a portfolio of postcards, and more.

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

But let’s get started! Young readers may wonder what Frank was like as a kid. Learning that his grandfather, Richard Lloyd Jones, a Welsh milliner who made “‘black cone-shaped hats that ended in a point, worn as much by witches when they flew on their broomsticks as by other Welshmen,” will only whet their appetite to know more, and they won’t be disappointed. In addition to the text that briefly outlines Wright’s ancestry and earliest work experiences and defines what an architect is, a child asks a few questions.

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

The first speech bubble asks, “How was he as a kid?” Readers open it up to see a photograph of Frank at age 10 accompanying a description of the books he read, the activities he and his best friend did, the newspaper he created, and even why “he called himself Aladdin” for a while. Readers next meet him at 16 in a photo of his very large extended family, and they also get to see his Uncle James’ house where he spent eight summers working on the farm. The exterior photo of the house Wright made for his family. Two other speech bubbles introduce children to the house Wright designed and built for his family and a discussion of his favorite color, complete with full-color photographs.

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

No artist is created in a vacuum, so author Patricia Geis includes a discussion of Friedrich Froebel, the creator of kindergarten and designer of twenty games that engaged children in geometry, creating dimensional shapes, building, and crafts and were influential in Wright’s development as well as in that of many well-known “artists, philosophers, and architects who would invent the abstract language of modern art.” A popup on the page replicates one of Froebel’s games.

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Wright’s father was also influential in his son’s education. He taught him to love music and “see the composer as a builder. For Wright, music and architecture were constructed by means of a system of units: the notes in music and the bricks in a house.” Just as notes are written on a staff, an architectural drawing is created on a grid. A detailed popup of Unity Temple built in 1908 in Oak Park, Illinois demonstrates how the building is positioned on a grid while a fold-out panel presents images of a floor plan, a cross section, a perspective drawing, and two photographs—one of the exterior and one of the interior of this beautiful temple.

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Wright is well-known for setting his buildings in harmony with their surroundings. In her chapter “The Landscape,” Geis explains that Wright believed all buildings should adhere to “‘organic architecture,’” which meant they should “be in harmony with the landscape, respect the materials of construction, and respond to the need of the client.” She goes on to talk about Taliesin, the house, studio, and farm where he opened a school of architecture in 1932,, and Taliesin West in Arizona. These two landmarks are presented first with small framed photos (which cleverly mirror pictures on an art gallery wall) that open up to show how the buildings blend in with the environment and second with foldouts that include interior and exterior photographs as well as accompanying text.

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Fallingwater, built in 1936, is one of Wright’s most famous designs, and with the pull of a tab, readers can transform the waterfall that hosts this house into the showstopper it became. More photographs and text present Wright’s philosophy about the house and land as well as the level of detail that went into building it—even to his choice to paint “the upper part the same color as the underside of a rhododendron leaf.”

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

“Wright believed that every house should fit its inhabitants, like a made-to-measure suit.” To see just how he accomplished creating one-of-a-kind houses, readers can flip through a portfolio of five postcards, each of which presents a color photograph of the exterior of the house on the front and a description and interior photographs on the back. Visitors to the Guggenheim Museum in New York have experienced how Wright brought “the forms of nature to the city.” Shaped with the spiral of a snail’s shell, the museum showcases the art collection of Solomon r. Guggenheim, who bought “the works of such avant-garde artists as Kandinsky, Klee, Picasso, and Mondrian. Perhaps Wright’s connection with some of these artists through their common adoption of Froebel’s games early in their development is one reason the museum and the art work so well together.

A natural teacher, Wright would no doubt invite readers of this book to do some architectural exploration of their own, and so Geis has included sheets of card stock blocks, shapes, cubes to build, and other elements as well as a grid for children to play with.

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Copyright Patricia Geis, 2019, courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.

Patricia Geis is an engaging and compelling tour guide on this absorbing survey of Frank Lloyd Wright’s life that spanned from 1867 to 1959 taking in Reconstruction, “the Industrial Revolution, the coming of electricity, two world wars, and the invention of television.” Her clear and straightforward storytelling draws readers in with intriguing details, information about his childhood, and sprinkled-in direct appeals for them to look closer at or notice something in the photographs. Geis does an excellent job of connecting Wright’s early influences to his later work and his architectural philosophies to his finished projects. Each two-page spread creates a chapter of sorts, making it easy for kids and adults to dip into the book as they wish or to read it all in one sitting. Charming illustrations of wanna-be architects on various pages invite kids along on this beautiful and beautifully done journey of discovery.

A stunning book that any child—or adult—would cherish, Meet the Architect! Frank Lloyd Wright is highly recommended for anyone interested in architecture or any of the arts. I would also encourage readers to check out the other books in this series, including Meet the Artist! books about Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Alexander Calder, Vincent van Gogh, and Leonardo da Vinci. If you are looking for a unique gift for a teacher or someone on your list, you can’t go wrong with this book.

Ages 7 – 12 and up

Princeton Architectural Press, 2019 | ISBN 978-1616895938

You can learn more about Patricia Geis, her books, and her art here.

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You can find Meet the Architect! Frank Lloyd Wright at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

October 1 – World Architecture Day

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About the Holiday

Established in 1986 by the International Union of Architects, World Architecture Day is celebrated on the first Monday in October to coincide with the United Nations-sponsored World Habitat Day. Each year a different theme highlights the important aspects of architecture in our lives. This year’s theme is “Architecture…for a Better World” and emphasizes the issues, challenges, and rewards of housing the world’s citizens. To celebrate today take a walk around your town or city with your kids and study the buildings and how they fit into history or new construction in your area. You can also research a famous building and the architect who designed it!

Brick, Who Found Herself in Architecture

Written by Joshua David Stein | Illustrated by Julia Rothman

 

When Brick was a baby, she marveled at all the tall buildings and “wondered how anything could grow so big.” Her mother told her that “‘great things begin with small bricks.’” And Brick saw that it was true. When she looked closely, she saw that all the buildings she admired were made of bricks just like her. Brick wondered if there were buildings like this in all towns and even in other countries.

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Image copyright Julia Rothman, 2018, text copyright Joshua David Stein, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Pretty soon, Brick was old enough to satisfy her curiosity on her own and “find her place in the world.” Brick bravely set sail and landed at Malbork Castle, which had high walls with slits for shooting arrows through. Next, she visited The Ark, which was in the desert. Brick saw that both of these castles had suffered from years of fighting. “Brick did not want to fight. So she moved on.”

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Image copyright Julia Rothman, 2018, text copyright Joshua David Stein, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

She saw churches, mosques, synagogues, and a Buddhist temple. She thought they were beautiful, “but they did not call out to her. And so she kept going.” She walked on walls and looked down both sides, but she did not want to divide places and people, so she kept going. She visited apartment houses, houses in the suburbs, and even a country house with a “chimney billowing smoke.” But Brick knew that “homes eventually empty and hearths grow cold.” This was not the future she wanted. Where did she belong? Brick wondered.

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Image copyright Julia Rothman, 2018, text copyright Joshua David Stein, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Brick considered all the buildings she had seen, and she remembered the words her mother had told her long ago about great things. She sat at the end of her path and pondered into the night. When the sun rose, Brick saw the answer right in front of her. She settled herself in and “became part of a wide and lovely path” that would guide other bricks to find where they belonged too.

An Afterword presents a description, complete with photograph, of the various buildings Brick encounters in her travels.

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Image copyright Julia Rothman, 2018, text copyright Joshua David Stein, 2018. Courtesy of Phaidon Press.

Full of lovely metaphors and deeply considered thoughts on the way architecture models the human heart as well as how people design their buildings and structures for purposes both positive and negative, Joshua David Stein’s story is a unique look at growing up. The brick makes a particularly compelling character, for in any building each brick holds a crucial place in the design while also joining with others to create a durable whole—just as it is for any individual in a strong, vibrant community.

As the little brick is exposed to the various roles she could dedicate her life to, she thinks not only of the immediate reward of “having a job” but of what her philosophies are and what she wants her future to be. In a perhaps surprising—but welcome—choice, Brick decides that instead of being part of a grand edifice, becoming a step along the path and guiding others is her calling. This recognition of teachers, parents, caregivers, and other such role models is inspired and uplifting.

Julia Rothman’s light touch, variety of reds, and whimsical black-and-white line drawings of foliage, ancillary elements, and toy-strewn backyards beautifully showcase a world of sturdy brick buildings while giving readers a sense of the soaring awe with which Brick views her city and the landmarks she visits. Rothman’s use of perspective juxtaposes tiny Brick against towering structures mirroring a feeling that young readers may know well. The path Brick travels is ever-present, running from edge to edge of the pages. The final two-page spread of Brick happily fitted into a path that meanders through a lushly landscaped park, which is being crossed by a young brick on his way to the city in the distance will delight readers.

Brick, Who Found Herself in Architecture is an original and lyrical look at individuality, growing up, and finding one’s place in the world. The book would be a strong addition to school, classroom, and public libraries and an encouraging and reassuring choice for home bookshelves as well.

Ages 4 – 8

Phaidon Press, 2018 | ISBN 978-0714876313

To learn more about Julia Rothman, her books and her art, visit her website.

World Architecture Day Activity

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Build Your Identity 

 

Sometimes it’s good for kids to remind themselves of all the things that they like, stops along their path, and even words that describe them. With this craft, kids can make a “brick” that stands strong with all of their unique qualities. While a wooden block can be used to make a brick, if you have a real brick that can be used too!

Supplies

  • Wooden rectangular block, available at craft stores
  • Brick red craft paint
  • Paint brush
  • Chalk

Directions

  1. Paint the block with the craft paint, let dry
  2. Write words about yourself, things you like to do, inspirational places you’ve been, even places and things you’d like to do in the future.
  3. Display your brick on a shelf, hang on a wall, or use it as a book end

Classroom Idea

As a story extension for the classroom, cut one brick-sized rectangle from red construction paper, heavy-stock paper, or poster board for each student. Have them write about themselves, about what they think they would like to do in the future, or about some other topic pertinent to your class. Let students display their bricks by working together to “build” their own path in the classroom.

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You can find Brick, Who Found Herself in Architecture at these booksellers

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-a-Million | IndieBound

Picture Book Review

 

November 26 – It’s Historic Bridge Awareness Month

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About the Holiday

This month we celebrate the bridges across the world who have stood the test of time as they connect roads, highways, and even walking paths over expanses of water or other gaps to convey travelers from one side to the other. Many old bridges are in danger of destruction through neglect or rebuilding. The founders of this month’s holiday ask that these structures be preserved for their beauty and history. There is another kind of bridge that also needs careful tending—as seen in today’s book! 

A Book of Bridges: Here to There and Me to You

Written by Cheryl Keely | Illustrated by Celia Krampien

 

“Bridges do more than connect one place to another. They bring the whole world together.” There are so many types of bridges—each just right for their place or function. Some of the most charming bridges are wooden-covered, like Canada’s Hartland-to-Somerville span in New Brunswick, which is the longest covered bridge in the world at 1282 feet (as long as 32 school buses end to end). Some are colorful like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, which is distinctively orange, a beautiful beacon against the blue sky and sea.

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Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

In London the bridge isn’t really falling down even though that makes for a fun game! The London Bridge, which crosses the River Thames, was the first stone multi-arch bridge built in Britain.” Over the years the bridge has been renovated many times, and it’s now made of concrete and steel. Drawbridges might be the coolest kind of bridge! It’s fun to watch them split in the middle and rise up, up, up before coming back down after a ship passes. These bridges “date to medieval times when knights in armor—and dragons?!—fought for their castles.”

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Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Sometimes bridges don’t have to be fancy to work. Some “bridges can be as simple as a few stones placed across a shallow stream” that give crossers a place to step all along the way. This is known as a clapper bridge. People aren’t the only ones who use bridges either. Places that are home to roaming wildlife—like Banff National Park in Canada—build bridges so animals “such as bears, wolves, moose, and lynx” can cross roads and highways safely.

Trains can also “use bridges to clickity-clack along, carrying people to people. Family together again.” But what if you want to travel from country to country? There are even bridges for that, and they make “a big world seem smaller.” While these types of bridges are strong and sturdy, there are other spans made only of rope and boards that are “rickety, ratchety, swinging and swaying their way to beautiful hid away places.”

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Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

People can become bridges too! Just try bending backward to touch the ground. Or if you don’t like feeling upside down, there is a simple way that “isn’t so grand. It connects me to you and you to me…through the simple holding of hands.”

Cheryl Keely’s enchanting tour of some of the world’s most beautiful and unusual bridges is sure to engage readers who love architecture, travel, and transportation—or who just have the wanderlust. Keely’s story, punctuated with facts and trivia about different types of bridges, is a lyrical frame for her theme of interconnectedness and friendship, making this a book that resonates on many levels and is a treat to dip into again and again.

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Image copyright Celia Krampien, 2017, courtesy of sleepingbearpress.com

Celia Krampien’s charming artwork takes readers to the towns and cities, the shores and cliffs that host the world’s bridges. Her realistic depictions show the grandeur of the majestic spans millions of people use every day as well as the rustic simplicity of rope and clapper bridges. Kids will love picking out details of the scenery surrounding each structure as well as recognizing familiar settings they have learned about or, perhaps, traveled to.

A Book of Bridges: Here to There and Me to You is a fresh, uplifting story that will appeal to fiction as well as nonfiction lovers. In addition to being a great addition to any story time, the book has many cross-curricular applications for classrooms and libraries, and would be a welcome find on any bookshelf.

Ages 5 – 8

Sleeping Bear Press, 2017 | ISBN 978-1585369966

To learn more about Cheryl Keely and her work as well as to find a fun bridge game, visit her website!

Find a portfolio of illustration by Celia Krampien on her website!

Historic Bridge Awareness Month Activity

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Build a Remarkable Recycled Bridge

 

You don’t need fancy blocks and construction materials to build a bridge! Little ones will be fascinated to put together a bridge made out of items you already have at home or that may even be slated for the recycle bin. Spaghetti boxes make great roadways, and cut-up egg cartons can be used as supports.

Want to build a whole town? Cereal boxes and pasta boxes make skyscrapers, apartment buildings, fire stations, and more. Need a farm silo? Grab a peanut butter jar or aluminum can. You can use them as is or—if your kids are sticklers for a little more detail—add a little paint! So look around, use your imagination, and get creative!

Picture Book Review