Review of Someone Builds the Dream

Someone Builds the Dream
by Lisa Wheeler; illus. by Loren Long
Primary    Dial    48 pp.    g
3/21    978-1-9848-1433-3    $19.99
e-book ed.  978-1-9848-1434-0    $10.99

Written in aptly propulsive verse and illustrated with aptly muscular art, this is a paean to people who work with their hands. To make a house, an architect is needed. “But… / Someone works to guide the saws, / plane the logs, lead the team. / Someone needs to pound the nails. / Someone has to build the dream.” The book follows the hands-on labor as first a house is built, then a bridge, decorative fountain, windmill farm, amusement park, and finally a book — the one we are reading, in fact. Visually, Long paces the story beautifully. Spreads depicting the cerebral work of an architect, engineer, artist, and others show the person (usually) in isolation, with a large amount of white space surrounding, even confining, their office, classroom, or studio. The subsequent scenes of their ideas being implemented are full-bleed, full-color spreads full of hustle-and-bustle, with hosts of people (of differing races, genders, and abilities) wielding tools, checking blueprints, and operating machinery. Compositions are controlled but busy; colors are bold. The overall feel is one of concentrated activity, industriousness, and progress, very reminiscent of WPA murals of the 1930s. The framing of the book is effective and child-scaled: a neglected piece of land we saw at the beginning is by story’s end transformed into a small, attractive park, echoing the book’s projects in microcosm (i.e., workers have constructed not a house but a gazebo; not an amusement park but a playground). Closing text exhorts children to appreciate all the “someones” behind built/made things — but they won’t need much of a push after reading this inspirational, inclusive, and engaging book.

From the May/June 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Martha V. Parravano
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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