The Story of Buildings by Patrick Dillon, illustrated by Stephen Biesty, 96 pp, RL 4

For those of you not familiar with the amazing work of Stephen Biesty, be sure to read my review ofInto the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea and Air, written by Stewart Ross. Sadly, most of Biesty's cross section books are now out of print, but his work shines even brighter when he pairs with other authors, as in Into the Unknown, and now The Story of Buildings, written by Patrick Dillon. On writing The Story of Buildings, Dillon says, "My two favorite things are stories and buildings. Telling stories about buildings is as good as it gets." Dillon begins The Story of Buildings with building a house, writing, "How people left caves and learned to make places like your home is the story of buildings." From a stick shelter to the various kinds of brickwork (English, Flemish and American) to igloos, teepees, tents and a Musgum hut, Dillon takes readers on a journey through time that provides a solid overview for the more detailed information to come. To this, Biesty adds his expertise. Of his work on The Story of Buildings, he said, "I wanted each cross section to be a unique hand-drawn dissection that reveals and explains the structure of a famous building and shows how people live inside it in miniature detail." Added to this, there is also a timeline and index at the back of the book.

While The Story of Buildings kicks off with the Pyramid of Djoser, Dillon and Biesty take readers on a tour that mostly focuses on Greater European landmarks like the Parthenon, Notre Dame, Villa Rotonda, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Melk Abbey, the Crystal Palace, the Bauhaus and the Pompidou Center. But he also features Hagia Sofia, the Taj Mahal, the Forbidden City, the Chrysler Building and the Sydney Opera House. Two page spreads featuring individual buildings have one or two half-page gatefolds that add to the information, focusing on building styles, terminology and interesting facts.  

The chapters featuring buildings are interspersed with chapters that cover the historical, cultural and social aspects of various time periods that gives an overview of the movements and thinking that resulted in each unique building. The Greeks and the Romans are featured along with chapters on the Renaissance and the Baroque in Europe. There are also chapters on "Living in the Past," "Modern Buildings," "The International Style" and a final chapter on the Straw Bale House with the title, "Think Before You Build" that is a wonderful conclusion to the vast scope of architecture presented. With a gentle hand, Dillon points out that, while we are still asking the same questions that the first builders asked when they set out to create a shelter, today we "have to ask some new questions as well" and learn to "make buildings that harm the earth less."

The Story of Buildings is a magnificent book, both for the overview of information collected within as well as Dillon's straightforward presentation and ability to focus on what will appeal to young readers most, but it is Biesty's intricate, crisp illustrations that will draw readers - even those who are not year able to read the text - to this wonderful book and hook them!

Source: Review Copy

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