Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building
Written and illustrated by Christy Hale
Published by Lee & Low in 2012
Grades PreK - 8
“If they can dream it, they can build it.” This quote, attributed to Madhu Thangavelu, captures the essence of an inspiring new picture book collection of concrete poetry that celebrates the human impulse to design and build. The structure of this book is as innovative as the remarkable buildings that it features. Double page spreads contain an illustration of children at work building with everyday materials, along with concise image-rich concrete poems echoing the shape of the child’s creation; these are juxtaposed with photographs of real-world buildings that incorporate design features from the children’s constructions. For example, two children building a drip castle from sand are depicted alongside Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, of Barcelona, Spain. Author Christy Hale provides wonderful diversity throughout the book, from the images of multicultural children to the unique featured structures from around the globe. This clever book invites multiple readings and will prompt adult readers to see their child builders as the next Frank Lloyd Wright or Maya Lin.
Teaching Ideas: Invitations for your Classroom
Grades PreK - 1
- Shapes All Around. After reading Dreaming Up aloud, reread the book, and ask students and ask students to name the geometrical shapes that they see in the buildings. Provide your students with building materials in a variety of shapes and invite them to experiment with making a variety of structures. How do different shapes fit together? What kinds of interior and exterior spaces do different shapes create? Take a shape walk in your community and invite students to use digital cameras and/or sketch pads on clipboards to document examples of different shapes that they see in the buildings of their community. (If you are in a suburban or rural area, invite children to walk the perimeter of the school building to document the different shapes they see at their school.)
- Build It, Then Write! Provide your students with a variety of building materials and invite them to build structures inspired by a reading of Dreaming Up. Take photographs of their creations and ask students to write about their constructions. What kind of a building have they made? What are the key features of their buildings? Who will use this building and what will they do? Compile the photographs and students writing into a class big book that celebrates their structures.
Grades 2 - 8
- Exploring concrete poetry. Dreaming Up could serve as a mentor text in a genre study of concrete poetry. Young writers will find this poetry form both accessible and fun! Study the form by reading titles such as Handsprings by Douglas Florian and A Poke in the I by Paul Janezcko and Chris Raschka (and additional titles listed below). Invite students to try their hand at writing concrete poems, either writing poems on topics of their own choosing or contributing a poem to a theme or topic related anthology. Older students might want to research a topic and show what they have learned through concrete poetry.
- Building Materials. Invite your students to research and report on a variety of building materials, considering their benefits and drawbacks in structural design. Ask students to consider what their homes are built of and what their school is built of. As an extension, you may want to discuss the resiliency of different building materials to storm damage and make a connection between socio-economic status and safety in houses and apartments.
Grades 3 – 8
- Quotes. The wonderful quotes in the extensive back matter of Dreaming Up are worthy of special attention. You could highlight these quotes by reproducing them on index cards to have students reread them as a collection. Ask small groups of students to read across the quotes and then to have a discussion about the roles and creative processes of architects. Extend their discussion by talking about the profiles that the author has provided for each architect. How do the quotes enhance the information that she has provided? What can students learn about biographical writing from this text?
Author/ Illustrator’s Website
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Petronas Twin Towers
World Monuments Fund: New Gourna Village
Architects List: The Box House
La Sagrada Familia
Society of Architectural Historians
Lego History Timeline
The Original Lincoln Logs History
National Building Museum: Architectural Toy Collection
Lessons from the Nation’s Biggest Architectural Toy Collection
MOMA: Century of the Child: Growing by Design 1900 – 2000
Library of Congress: Center for Architecture, Design, and Engineering
Philadelphia Center for Architecture: Online Resources
* This museum currently has an exhibit titled Constructing Play: Classic Building Toys
Bingham, J. (2010). Architecture. Chicago: Raintree.
- This title in the nonfiction series Culture in Action provides intermediate level readers with an overview architecture including processes, notable figures in the field, and significant buildings.
Hudson, C.W. (2006). Construction zone. Photos. by R. Sobol. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
- This engaging photo-essay traces the construction of the MIT Stata Center in Cambridge, MA and features the role of architect Frank O. Gehry.
Hutchins, H. & Herbert, G. (2008). Mattland. Ill. by D. Petricic. Toronto: Annick Press.
- New to the neighborhood, a young boy constructs a village of his own, using materials he finds in a vacant lot.
McCauley, D. (2010). Built to last. Castle, Cathedral, Mosque. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- David McCauley provides a detail description and visual depiction of the construction of these significant buildings. See our classroom bookshelf entry on Built to Last.
LaRoche, G. (2009). What’s inside?: Fascinating structures around the world. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- Using intricate and detailed cut paper illustrations, the author explores the interior and exterior of various structures around the world, focusing on their roles and functions.
Lewis, J.P. (2005). Monumental verses. Washington, DC: National Geographic.
- A collection of poems about man-made monuments around the globe.
McLerran, A. (1991). Roxaboxen. Ill. by Barbara Cooney. New York: Lothrup, Lee, & Shepherd.
- This picture book celebrates the imagination and building prowess of children, featuring a child constructed village of stones and boxes where children enact community dramas.
Ritchie, S. (2011). Look at that building! A first book of structures. Toronto: Kids Can Press.
- Fundamentals of building are introduced in this nonfiction picture book for primary grades.
Stevenson, R.L. (2005). Block city. Ill. by D. Kirk. New York: Simon & Schuster.
- The classic poem from A Child’s Garden of Verses in which a child constructs an imaginary city from block is placed in a contemporary setting by illustrator Daniel Kirk.
Concrete Poetry Collections:
Florian, D. (2006). Handsprings: Poems & paintings. New York: Greenwillow.
Franco, B. (2011). A dazzling display of dogs: Concrete poetry. Ill. by M. Wertz. Berkeley, CA: Tricycle Press.
Graham, J.B. (1999) Flicker flash: Poems. Ill. by N. Davis. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Graham, J.B. (1994) Splish splah: Poems. Ill. by S. Scott. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Grandits, J. (2007). Blue lipstick: Concrete poems. New York: Clarion Books.
Grandits, J. (2004). Technically, it’s not my fault: Concrete poems. New York: Clarion Books.
Janeczko, P. (2001). A poke in the I: A collection of concrete poems. Ill. by C. Raschka. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.
Sidman, J. (2006). Meow ruff. Ill. by M. Berg. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.