Friday, October 7, 2022

Build a House, a Bridge, and More...

Last week it was all about beaver building a lodge. So this week I’m sharing books about engineering and architecture. Because… building!

themes: building, engineering, STEM

Bear Builds a House 
by Maxwell Eaton III 
32 pages; ages 4-8
‎Neal Porter Books, 2022

(Bear has been) caring for a friend’s house, but now it’s time to build one of her own.

First, thought, she needs to find a good building site. Then she needs to plan the house and hire some help: Beaver to saw and mill trees, Woodchuck to excavate, and some other woodland crafts-mammals. This book provides a great overview of what goes into building a house. We see the site plan and architectural drawings, complete with elevations (drawings that show what the house will look like from each side). Bear has many things to do: source building materials (local lumber), put in a foundation, install water and sewage systems, frame the house, cover the roof, put in some solar panels and a woodstove, and insulate the house against weather extremes.

What I like about this book: I like the way Maxwell Eaton uses labels and lists to show what is being done and what materials are used. I love the introduction to the house-building crew, and the undercurrent of “is it done yet?” and the final scene when everyone enjoys the housewarming party. Back matter includes a note from the author, in which he points out the environmental costs of various inputs in the construction project. And I like the duck.

How Was That Built?: The Stories Behind Awesome Structures 
by Roma Agrawal; illus. by Katie Hickey 
80 pages; ages 7& up
Bloomsbury Children's Books, 2022

Though there are plenty of illustrations in this book, it feels more like an illustrated nonfiction book for older readers. Author Roma Agrawal is a structural engineer. She has designed bridges and skyscrapers, and spent six years working on The Shard (the tallest building in Western Europe). In her book, Roma shows how engineers and architects approached a variety of challenges: how to build a dome, how to build underground, how to build on ice, in space, in the sea. 

What I like: I like the detailed illustrations, with explanatory text. I like the diversity of engineering problems addressed. And I really like the occasional “try it at home” activities.

Working With Buildings and Structures (Kid Engineer series)
By Izzi Howell; illus. by Diego Vaisberg
32 pages; ages 9+
Kane Miller Publishing, 2022

From sketches to physics to materials selection, this book provides kids a great introduction to building things. With plenty of hands-on activities, this is a perfect book for the kid who wants to explore engineering and architecture. Using nothing more than paper and tape, can you build a structure sturdy enough to hold your math book?

Beyond the Books:

Design and build a house using materials you have in and around your house. You might have blocks, or Legos – but remember to check what’s available in the recycling bin and outside. You might want to use twigs to frame a dome…

Build a bridge out of paper. Here’s a video showing some engineering ideas, and here’s some more bridge-making ideas.

Try making your own mud bricks. Here’s how.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copies provided by the publishers.


  1. These are excellent shares for different age groups. We are a family of engineers, architects, so I'm always looking for good books for our great grandchildren. This would also pair with the PB "Someone Builds the Dream."

  2. My son would have been all over these books...and now he's studying engineering in college. I agree with Patricia, that you've got a terrific sampling of STEM books here that will appeal across a wide age span.

  3. These sound like great books that my nephews would have liked when they were younger.

  4. Both sounds like great books to encourage the budding engineer and architect! But I won't be going anywhere near the Shard, I would be far too terrified!! :)

  5. I love the variety of books you reviewed here. And that the bear in the first book is a SHE! Kudos to that author. I'll have to think about these books for my grandkids.

  6. Great selection of books. I would have loved these as a kid since my nickname was The Fiddler. I'll be sure to forward your review to a few young readers who are already creating things with their hands and mind. Happy MMGM!

  7. These books look great. How Was That Built? looks like it would be really popular with the middle-grade set. Thanks for the post.