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Building books for primary readers

Four books for younger readers share a fascination with building — and in one case, its opposite.

Dreaming UpBuilding — whether with blocks or sand or sticks or boxes — is one of childhood’s most entertaining forms of play. In Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale, fifteen such play building projects are deftly rendered in mixed-media collage and paired with simple concrete poems and photos of iconic buildings. A toddler’s upside-down stack of graduated plastic rings resembles Frank Lloyd Wright’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; a pillow fort mimics Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Lots of books show children how to play; this one suggests that “dreaming up” what to do with available materials is vital to creativity. (3–7 years, Lee & Low)

Roxie Munro’s Busy Builders profiles eight insects and one spider that make their own structures. Each is introduced by name with a close-up illustration and the question, “Where does it live?” Turn the page, and the answer is revealed, showing the creature industriously building and maintaining its home. Detailed explanations on the construction techniques and purposes of the structures are interwoven with facts about each species. Bold use of perspective will grab readers’ attentions: on one page zooming in at eye-level next to an ant or wasp; on the next page backing out to feature geometric details of their nests and hives. (5–8 years, Marshall Cavendish)

David Macaulay brings his signature brand of illustrated expository nonfiction to a younger audience in his new series of early readers. In Castle: How It Works, Macaulay (with Sheila Keenan) takes readers on a tour of a fictional castle, inviting them to envision themselves in the action. From drawbridge to outer curtain to battlement to inner ward, Castle abounds with detail and with Macaulay’s mischievous wit, as in the following advice about additional uses for a catapult: “You can also fire smelly, germy dead animals. Fire! Whoosh! Pigs away!” (5–8 years, David Macaulay Studio/Square Fish/Roaring Brook)

“Swing the ball. Swing the ball. / Thump and smash and whack. / Bring the top floors tumbling down. / Bang! CLANG! CRACK!” Demolition follows a demolition crew as it tears down an old building, sorts scraps for recycling, and hauls the debris off to make room for a new construction project: a playground. Sally Sutton’s rhythmic text captures the excitement and energy of big trucks and powerful machinery, and Brian Lovelock’s illustrations put the equipment and vehicles center stage, where young fans will want them. This is as good as it gets for truck-obsessed preschoolers. (3–7 years, Candlewick)

From the January 2013 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Martha V. Parravano About Martha V. Parravano

Martha V. Parravano is book review editor of The Horn Book, Inc., and co-author of the Calling Caldecott blog.

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