Buildings in Children's Books

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Let's build on a theme this month and, for symmetry's sake, let's choose buildings as the theme. We'll have plenty of books to choose from and, to add to the desirability, books that have buildings at their center stretch from early childhood to young adult.

Possible Activities:

Make a skyline using black paper against a light background. For older children, use the school as the center of the skyline view.

Survey your town or a few blocks in your town and note the different kinds of buildings there. Classify them as to use or architecture.

Photograph many different kinds of buildings in your area and look for clues to decide when the building was constructed.

Figure out what kind of dwelling is best suited for your area. Take into account cost and availability of materials and workers as well as effects on the environment.

Find out as much as you can about the building you live in. When was it built? What different families have lived there? What important things happened about the same time the building was new?

Design a building for the future incorporating possible changes in lifestyle and environment.

Photograph and classify buildings of worship in your area. Note how the exteriors reflect or do not reflect the religious beliefs and practices.

THE BOOKS:

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Morris, Ann. House and Homes Photographs by Ken Heyman
Lothrop, 1992 ISBN 0688101682. Order Info
Rating: 2 stars
Grades PreK - 4
Here's a book for browsing and learning for children of many ages. Limited text and exquisite and informative photographs show buildings from Buckingham Palace to a simple house of straw in various places around the world. A map and afterword add to the information.

Tarsky, Sue. The Busy Building Book
Putnam, 1997 ISBN 0399231374. Order Info
Rating: 1 star
Grades PreK - 2
The various steps involved in constructing a building are clearly laid out here for the youngest reader. The explanations are simple and the various workers and tools are identified.

Waddell, Martin. The Hidden House Illustrated by Angela Barrett
Candlewick Press, 1997 ISBN 076360335X. Order Info
Rating: 3 stars
Grades K - 4
This gentle book with its intricate illustrations has just the right amount of whimsy. An old man lives in a tiny house in the woods and, for company, makes three wooden dolls, which he places in the front window so that they can watch him work. We're told that he talks to them sometimes, but not very often.
Then the old man leaves never to return and vines and other plants grow up and around the house until they conceal it. Insects and other tiny creatures take it over and years go by. Waddell thinks the dolls are lonely. Then a man, his wife and child find the hidden house, clean it up, repair the damage of years of neglect and do the same for the dolls. Of course, they still can't talk, but I think they're happy again.

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Pryor, Bonnie. The House on Maple Street illustrated by Beth Peck
Mulberry Books ISBN 0688120318. Order Info
Rating: 3 stars
Grades K - 4
As in Borning Room for older kids (see below), we view the passage of time throughout the existence of a house. Two girls find an arrowhead. They go back in their imaginations to a time when there was no house in this spot and then travel forward through time as the house develops and changes.

Keats, Ezra Jack. Apt. 3
Puffin Books, 1999 ISBN 0140565078. Order Info
Rating: 2 stars
Grades PreK - 2
Although the title of the book is a building, the concentration here is on the sounds within it. Sam and his friend must hear through the sounds of other tenants eating, talking and snoring before they find the source of the harmonica music.

McDonald, Megan. My House Has Stars Illustrated by Peter Catalanotto
Orchard Books, 2001 ISBN 0531071812. Order Info
Rating: 2 stars
Grades 1 - 4
Here's a book that surveys the homes in eight different cultures as the children in them get ready for bed.

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Rounds, Glen. Sod Houses on the Great Plains
Holiday House, 1995 ISBN 0823411621. Order Info
Rating: 3 stars
Grades 1 - 6
This simple picture book gives a surprising amount of information about the reasons why sod houses were used, the way in which they were constructed and the advantages and disadvantages of these unique buildings.

Cooney, Barbara. Island Boy
Puffin Books, 1991 ISBN 0140507566. Order Info
Rating: 3 star
Grades 2 - 4
There are many buildings on this tiny island but not at first. A young man settles on the island off the coast of Maine and we watch the buildings there change as the generations build.

Van Allsburg, Chris. Two Bad Ants
Houghton Mifflin, 1988 ISBN 0395486688. Order Info
Rating: 2 stars
Grades 1 - 5
Here we get an ant's eye view of the interior of a house. The perspectives are mind boggling.

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Macaulay, David. Rome Antics
Houghton, 1997 ISBN 0395822793. Order Info
Rating: 3 star
Grades 2 - 8
Macaulay has done so many books on various kinds of buildings that they could fill their own newsletter. For our purposes, however, Rome Antics is both more fun and more useful in its coverage of many types of buildings. The scene is modern Rome and we follow a pigeon's flight throughout the city, getting a pigeon's eye view of it all.
A few of the Building Books by David Macaulay:
Building Big - Houghton Mifflin, 2000 ISBN 0395963311. Order Info
Castle - Houghton Mifflin, 1982 ISBN 0395329205. Order Info
Cathedral - Houghton Mifflin, 1981 ISBN 0395316685. Order Info
Pyramid - Houghton Mifflin, 1982 ISBN 0395321212. Order Info

Bial, Raymond. Frontier Home
Houghton Mifflin, 1993 ISBN 0395640466. Order Info
Rating 2 stars
Grades 1 - 6
A poetic text and interesting color photographs combine to recreate the experience of a covered wagon trip and the establishment of a prairie home.

Turner, Ann. Dakota Dugout illustrated by Ronald Himler
Simon and Schuster, 1985 ISBN 0027897001. Order Info
Rating: 2 stars
Grades 2 - 9
In this picture book a stylishly dressed woman tells a child of her early life in a sod house on the prairie. This is a good look at the harsh life there.

Isaacson, Philip M. Round Buildings, Square Buildings, and Buildings That Wiggle Like a Fish
Knopf, 2001 ISBN 0394893824. Order Info
Rating: 3 star
Grades 3 - 9
Actually, even the youngest browser might enjoy this book of photographs on buildings. The text, however, is poetic and mind-expanding as the author takes a look at the various buildings humans have devised. He takes us from famous structures like the Taj Mahal to echoes of their motifs and structures throughout the world.

Turner, Ann. Finding Walter
Harcourt, 1997 ISBN 015200212X. Order Info
Rating: 2 stars
Grades 3 - 6
This time it's a dollhouse as the building in question. Rose and Emily find an old dollhouse in their grandmother's attic and it becomes the focus of their rivalry and concern as they restore it to its former glory. As they do so, they begin to hear the residents of the dollhouse talk.

Avi. The Barn
Camelot, 1996 ISBN 0380725622. Order Info
Rating: 3 stars
Grades 4 - 9
In this brief but challenging novel, Ben, the youngest boy in a motherless family, has been called home, together with his siblings to deal with their father's recent stroke. Ben becomes convinced that their building of a barn will help to heal his father. It's a story of persistence, acceptance and love. More Info. including review and related links.

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Winthrop, Elizabeth. The Castle in the Attic
Dell, 1988 ISBN 0440409411. Order Info
Rating: 3 star
Grades 3 - 7
William's friend and housekeeper, Mrs. Phillips, has given him the castle as a parting gift. The miniature building has been in Mrs. Phillips' family for generations. Bored and disappointed at first by the gift, William soon finds that his touch brings the Silver Knight to life and William finds a way to keep Mrs. Phillips a prisoner within the castle. More Info including activities, related books and links.

Fleischman, Paul. The Borning Room
HarperCollins, 1991 ISBN 0785707980. Order Info
Rating: 3 star
Grades 5 - 9
This short novel focuses on one room in a house built in Ohio in 1820. Our narrator is Georgina whose grandfather built the house. The sense of life and death permeates this beautiful book. More Info.

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