It was one man’s dream to recreate beautiful buildings remembered from his childhood in Italy as a gift to the community....

DREAM SOMETHING BIG

THE STORY OF THE WATTS TOWERS

Using his hands, simple tools and found pieces of glass, tile and steel, a reclusive Italian immigrant assembled and built the extraordinary Watts Towers in southern California.

A little girl from the neighborhood tells the story as she watches Uncle Sam, as she calls Simon Rodia, collect chips of tile and make mortar from his secret mixture of sand, cement and water. The work, done in evenings and on weekends, spans more than three decades. That little girl grows up and brings her own children to watch in wonder as the towers soar skyward. Her trusting voice and observant eye make her an endearing narrator. “Uncle Sam was like a spider weaving his web / of steel and cement and lacy shadows.” Aston’s telling is lyrical and reads aloud beautifully. Roth, working in her signature mixed-media collage, is the perfect choice to illustrate the building process. Bits and pieces of photographs, paper and fabric arranged in colorful panels and full-page spreads dazzle the eye. Step-by-step instructions and photographs for constructing a tower from pipe-cleaners provide an excellent follow-up activity.

It was one man’s dream to recreate beautiful buildings remembered from his childhood in Italy as a gift to the community. That dream became a National Landmark for all to treasure, and this book brings it to children everywhere. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3245-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2011

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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