Judges and winners of the 2013 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards came together in early October for “The Horn Book at Simmons: Building Character,” a day-long event designed to give participants an opportunity to discuss how characters are constructed, and how they reach out from the page, building bridges to young readers in the process. In keeping with that theme, the following picture books from the fall 2013 and spring 2014 issues of the Horn Book Guide explore the early childhood fascination with literal and imaginative building and construction.
Editorial Assistant, The Horn Book Guide
Ashburn, Boni The Fort That Jack Built
32 pp. Abrams 2013 ISBN 978-1-4197-0795-7
Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Brett Helquist. Jack assembles a fort out of household items without asking permission. One by one, his family members reclaim their possessions, taking down the fort. Luckily Grandma is willing to share, helping Jack see a more effective approach to building. The cumulative “House That Jack Built” rhymes are peppy, and Helquist’s homey oil paintings in muted tones capture the action of imaginative play.
Beaty, Andrea Rosie Revere, Engineer
32 pp. Abrams 2013 ISBN 978-1-4197-0845-9
Gr. K–3 Illustrated by David Roberts. After a confidence-shattering incident when she was younger, little budding engineer Rosie Revere is too timid to show anyone her machines. Then great-great-aunt Rose, an engineer herself, teaches Rosie the true meaning of a successful invention. Beaty’s rhymes are cleverly constructed, and Roberts’s meticulous illustrations, some on drafting paper, capture the quirkiness of the girl and her gizmos.
Becker, Kate M. My Dream Playground
24 pp. Candlewick 2013 ISBN 978-0-7636-5531-0
Gr. K–3 Illustrated by Jed Henry. A little girl dreams of building the perfect playground in her urban neighborhood. One day a community organizer shows up to do just that; after showing him her ideas, he makes the girl “project manager.” The author’s note explains that the uplifting (if idealized) story is based on a real project by KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit organization. Sunny digital illustrations underscore the sense of community.
Côté, Geneviève Mr. King’s Castle
32 pp. Kids Can 2013 ISBN 978-1-55453-972-7
Gr. K–3 Mr. King, a cat, lives on a hill. By chopping up the hill, he constructs a castle for himself, but his animal friends aren’t happy about the habitat loss. They help him see the effects his overbuilding have on others, and together they put everything back…well, almost. Côté plays with shapes, sizes, and negative space in her colorful, textured mixed-media art.
Holub, Joan Dig, Scoop, Ka-boom!
32 pp. Random 2013 LE ISBN 978-0-375-96910-2
PE ISBN 978-0-375-86910-5
Gr. K–3 Illustrated by David Gordon. Step into Reading series. “Digger’s teeth / bite the ground. / Crunch, crunch, scoop! / Tracks skid around.” Familiar construction vehicles in bright colors shove, lift, chug, and push “all day long.” The rhyming text describes the activities; eventually the illustrations pull back to show children playing with toy trucks in a sandbox. The simple text and engaging illustrations should draw in new readers. Two sticker sheets are included.
Horvath, James Dig, Dogs, Dig: A Construction Tail
32 pp. HarperCollins/Harper 2013 ISBN 978-0-06-218964-6
PS Hyperactive rhymes roll out the story of a dedicated crew of construction-working dogs. Under the leadership of crew boss Duke, the canines hurry to their worksite, where a variety of machines await their commands, and then race through their task of building a park that opens at day’s end. Digital illustrations capture the pups’ frenzy and the quick-moving progress of their project.
Viva, Frank Young Frank, Architect
40 pp. MoMA 2013 ISBN 978-0-87070-893-0
Gr. K–3 Both Young Frank and his grandfather, Old Frank, are architects, though Young “uses anything he can get his hands on” to build things while Old thinks inside the box. A trip to MoMA is validating for the boy and eye-opening for the grandfather. Notes on envelope-pushing architects — including two more Franks (Gehry, Wright) — conclude the stylishly illustrated and designed book.
Zuppardi, Sam The Nowhere Box
40 pp. Candlewick 2013 ISBN 978-0-7636-6367-4
Gr. K–3 “‘Where are you going?’ ‘Nowhere! And you can’t follow me!’” Craving time away from his pesky younger brothers, George constructs a ship from a large cardboard box. Armed with his imagination and a helmet, he sets a course for Nowhere. This familiar scenario will resonate with most children; Zuppardi’s scribbly, childlike illustrations invite readers into George’s build-it-yourself adventure.
From the January/February 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. These reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. For information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, please click here.