Sometimes, all you need to know is in a children’s book. I have often been interested in a famous person of the past, only to find a shelf full of 800-page tomes about him at the library. I don’t need to know about his grandparents, I don’t want to read all of his letters or diary entries, and I don’t care how often he changed his socks. I just want to know why this person is famous, and why I should care.
Children’s nonfiction is excellent for this— plus, it usually has better pictures. 13 Architects Children Should Know is a great example. On two- or four-page spreads for each architect, it takes the reader from Brunelleschi to Zaha Hadid, showing clear photos of their work and explaining how each one heralded a change in the world’s understanding of architecture. There are also small pictures of the details of their buildings that seem so ordinary now, but at the time were amazing and brilliant.
Love Palladian windows? You can thank Andrea Palladio, from the sixteenth century. Thomas Jefferson, who seems to have done everything well, rebuilt and remodeled his beloved Monticello all of his life. I learned about Antoni Gaudi in a teen novel about Barcelona. I think his buildings look like a dream, but some people think they look like nightmares. Frank Lloyd Wright somehow built Fallingwater so that it won’t actually fall into the water, which it constantly threatens to do. Architect Frank Gehry made a guest appearance on The Simpsons to talk about his buildings, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall, which looks as if it is taking off for outer space. So many treasures in the world!
Happily for you, this book is part of a series by Prestel Publishing, including 13 Artists Children Should Know, 13 Buildings, 13 Sculptures, and so on. Click on the link to see them all. Very enlightening for adults looking for a quick art history brush-up, as well!
Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own, and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.