Now that my son is applying for high school architecture and design programs, my lens is focused on all things architecture. I see references everywhere, from Vince Scully’s obit in the NY Times, to a new picture book biography about Zaha Hadid, to two picture book biographies of Maya Lin, Legos’ architecture building series (including Fallingwater), etc etc…. and now a picture book about Frank Lloyd Wright!
From the square trim size to the lyrical writing to the insertion of Wright’s signature red squares, I think that he would approve of this book. Not only as a way to learn about his work, but also as its own art object.
When we step into the world of this book, we don’t know who this baby turned boy turned man is. And we won’t know until we read the back matter. This allows children, especially those who love playing with blocks, to insert themselves into the story and experience how their love of shapes can be extended to the world around them.
“One night, a momma rocked a baby in an old wooden chair. “Someday,” she whispered, “you will build beautiful buildings.”
The baby smiled and cooed. He did not know about beautiful buildings. He hadn’t seen soaring skyscrapers or elegant museums. But someday he would learn.”
Wright does indeed learn, with the help of his mother. She gives him Froebel Gifts, blocks of basic geometric shapes that ignite his passion.
And soon he learns:
“Every shape was many shapes.”
Wright takes his fascination with shapes out into the world, and, unlike other architects, focuses on integrating those shapes into the landscape.
I’ve been to Fallingwater and loved the way it was nestled into the woods and overtop a stream. This book brought back those memories, and now I’m itching to experience more of his work.
This morning, I read Vince Scully’s obituary in the New York Times. He was such a champion of how architecture affects human beings and their interaction with each other. I think he would have loved this book, too.
The author, K.L. Going, brings us full circle on the final two spreads:
“Someday had come and gone…and he had changed the shape of the world.”
Going explains in her author’s note how she pulled from Wright’s memories of his mother’s influence and how he worked with nature rather than building “on” top of anything. He thought that buildings should be “of” the place. “Belonging to it.” Brilliant!
Stringer’s illustrator’s note also gives us insight into how she composed each of her illustrations, based on many of Wright’s drawings, and used an “earthy color palette” to reflect Wright’s belief in “organic architecture.”
Author: K.L. Going
Illustrator: Lauren Stringer
Publisher: Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster, 2017
For Ages: preschool to 3rd grade