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Architects and designers

Architects Maya Lin, Zaha Hadid, and Frank Lloyd Wright drew inspiration from science, nature, and the world around them to create iconic buildings and structures; artist and designer Mary Blair saw the possibility in color and embraced the motto: “It’s a Small World.” These picture-book biographies may similarly encourage budding architects and designers.

Jeanne Walker Harvey’s quiet and contemplative book Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of Light and Lines: Designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial begins by exploring Lin’s early fascination with spaces and light. During her senior year at Yale, she entered a national contest to design the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. That a twenty-one-year-old novice beat out 1,420 other candidates, many of them famous architects, is intrinsically captivating fodder for a picture book, and Lin’s conviction about her own design in the face of public backlash is a built-in lesson in perseverance. Appropriately, Dow Phumiruk’s muted illustrations have the fine lines, precision, and spatial astuteness of architectural drawings. (Holt/Ottaviano, 5–8 years)

As a child growing up in Baghdad, Zaha Hadid’s love for math allowed her to see the world through a unique lens; she studied carpet patterns, dreamed of ancient ruins, and observed nature. Her creative thoughts inspired her to become an architect, and she went on to design extraordinary and unusual structures. In The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid, Jeanette Winter presents an innovative and strong woman who inspired others in her field and worked tirelessly to make her vision become a reality. Winter’s rich-hued, multilayered illustrations visually unite readers with the spirit of Hadid’s architectural creations. (Simon/Beach Lane, 5–8 years)

In The Shape of the World: A Portrait of Frank Lloyd Wright, author K. L. Going traces how Wright’s early childhood, spent playing and dreaming in forests and fields and building with geometric blocks, was the foundation of his long and illustrious career. She writes lovingly and rhythmically, but she avoids a tone of hero-worship and never names Wright (he is “the baby,” then “the boy,” and then “the architect”). Lauren Stringer’s warm and accessible pictures show Wright at various stages of life against backdrops that nod to his designs. Every aspect of the book is thoughtful, from the square trim size to the color palette to the typeface based on lettering designed by Wright. (Simon/Beach Lane, 5–8 years)

In Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire, Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville describe how, from an early age, Blair “collected colors of every shade and every hue.” In 1940, the young artist got a job at Walt Disney Studios, where men in drab suits found her unconventional use of color, to be “too vivid, too wild.” But Walt Disney himself took an interest in Mary’s vision, and later (after Mary had left the studio to work in advertising, television, and children’s book illustration), Walt recruited her to design the “It’s a Small World” ride for the 1964 World’s Fair. Brigette Barrager’s digital illustrations employ a kaleidoscopic palette and intense patterns that reflects the aesthetic of Disney’s golden age. (Atheneum, 5–8 years)

From the November 2017 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.



Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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