Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Into the Unknown and The Story of Buildings (Candlewick Press)

I find myself scouring Amazon at least weekly, sometimes daily for quality hardcover children's books. At times, it feels like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Sure, there are a lot of older books that fit the bill. However, the newer releases are mostly shallow and not worth reading. It feels like we're setting up the next generation to be dumber, or at the very least be less interested in books. I have recently found two books that are both graphically appealing and educational, both are illustrated by Stephen Biesty and both are published by Candlewick Press.

Into the Unknown is an elaborately illustrated children's book, which chronicles fourteen famous journeys in history. The book begins in 340 B.C. with Pytheas the Greek sailing to the Arctic Circle and concludes with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon in 1969. Several other famous journeys detailed in this book are Leif Eriksson's, Marco Polo's, Christopher Columbus', and Edmund Hilary's. In addition to receiving a summary of the journey and illustrations on every page, one feature of this book sets it apart from all others. FOLDOUTS!

Each of the fourteen journeys has a unique foldout section that details something significant related to the journey. Pytheas' foldout shows how to build a curragh (the ship he sailed on) as well as what went into travelling on this type of ship. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's foldout was the most awesome. It shows all the parts of the Apollo module, the journey to and from the moon, and what happened to the Apollo module at every stage of the journey. Even the cover expands and folds out into a world map to show the path of all fourteen journeys. The only negative of the book is the sturdiness of the book. The inside of my copy split at the front seam, and will have to have paper glued over it to repair it. For that reason, I am taking away 1 star. I still think this was an awesome book worth buying. It would make a great supplement to a history class or homeschool curriculum.

The Story of Buildings is a gorgeous hardcover book that measures approximately 12" x 10". Picking it up for the first time, it looked a bit like a coffee table book for kids, which I guess it could be used as such. The book begins with a chapter on building a house. The author, Patrick Dillon, describes how people used to live in caves because it was the most logical shelter choice available, but eventually developed tools and learned how to make homes. According to him, this is the story of buildings. He then goes on to show how dwelling places have changed both over the years and depending on where one lived. After this other types of structures came into being, like barns, factories, places of worship, etc. He stresses that "Every building has a story to tell." We then dive into the heart of the book.

The remaining chapters focus on a particular building, starting with the Pyramid of Djoser and ending with the Straw Bale House in London, England. Each chapter tells background information on the place the building is located, the culture/people, and the building itself. A large foldout 2 page illustration is then provided to show finer details of the building itself. The book has a nice flow to it, because it's like reading a linear evolution of buildings. He starts with Egypt, moves to Greece, then Rome, etc. and manages to paint a beautiful picture with words to accompany the many beautiful illustrations by Stephen Biesty. This is a great book for children and adults alike and reminds me of David Macaulay's books. This is a great book for getting kids interested in architecture and engineering.

These books were provided to me for free by Candlewick Press. If you found these reviews helpful, click here and/or here and hit Yes!