The Shape of the World – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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


28 thoughts on “The Shape of the World – Perfect Picture Book Friday

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      And, as the obit on Vince Scully pointed out, our physical surroundings have a tremendous impact on our mental outlook, something I’m starting think more about as I become more aware of how space is used. I wanted to leave a comment on your blog about antioxidants and free radicals. I was starting to think of them in a political sense, LOL. But I won’t go there. Cheers!

  1. viviankirkfield says:

    I LOVE your review, Jilanne…and I’ve read this one as a mentor text for the pb bios I am doing…it is so lyrical…absolutely beautiful. I’m excited also about all of the artsy pb bios that are coming out. I just wrote one and hope it will find a home when it goes out on submission.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yay! It’s kind of hard NOT to be a Wright fan, I’m thinking. Although my husband thinks the ceilings/doorways of Fallingwater are too low. But he’s 6’7″. Everything that doesn’t have 20′ ceilings it too low for him. LOL.

      Three cheers for your library! I’m glad they’ve already got it in circulation.

  2. Clara Gillow Clark says:

    Hi Jilanne, Thank you for sharing K.L. Going’s new book about Frank Lloyd Wright. I remember when it was only words and how thrilling it was to see the first sketches and illustrations. What a perfect book to share and give to a child who is curious about the world.

  3. Patricia Tilton says:

    I knew when I saw the shapes and the boy, that this was going to be about Frank Lloyd Wright. So many of his buildings are here in Dayton. I loved your review Jilanne. This goes to the top of my list.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      Yes! I’m always in awe of people who can come up with titles that fit a book so well. I haven’t found anyone who doesn’t respect Wright’s work. A true testament to the legacy he left us.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      There’s another book out on Zaha Hadid that I just read. It shows how shapes influenced her architecture, too. But it also shows how she had to overcome the inherent sexism in the architecture world. Well worth a read, too!

  4. Sue Heavenrich says:

    I read this a while ago and really liked it. Especially the playing with blocks! I wish this book had been around when my kids were young.

  5. Ste J says:

    This sounds like a great read, Architecture is wonderful and endlessly fascinating, especially when combined with nature. Anther book to add to the list!

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