Anything but plain, the wooden block is the basis for everything from geometric patterns to a cathedral in Block Building for Children by Lester Walker, preface by Witold Rybczynski. Illustrated with 67 black-and-white photographs and 125 line drawings, this guide helps would-be architects construct everything from a Greek temple to the Emerald City of Oz (Overlook, $22.95, 167p, ages 9-up ISBN 0-87951-609-7 Nov.).
School Library Journal
Gr 2-6-Detailed instructions for 18 block-building projects, including a boat dock, a farm, a mosque, a city of the future, and the Emerald City of Oz. The constructions require 11 specific sizes and shapes of wooden blocks (these can be ordered from the publisher, but a short list of catalog and toy-store sources is offered in the appendix). A few of the projects require extra pieces (accessory wood turnings, dowels, etc.) not on the main list. A clear table shows drawings and dimensions of the blocks, and each is numbered. When assembling the scenes, builders must refer to the numbers on the diagrams in order to use the correct blocks; it's all fairly easy to follow. Instructions begin with basic building techniques (towers, beams, etc.), and then move on to the main projects. Tips and more specific instructions clarify some of the steps. Fairly dull black-and-white photos show children (mostly boys) in the process of assembling. In his description of how to build each scene, the author weaves in historical background and simple engineering details, injecting some welcome imaginative spirit. If youngsters have the right blocks (and enough of them) and a bit of patience, they should be able to manage most of the projects. They are simpler than those in Sam Bingham's The Ultimate Wood Block Book (Sterling, 1988; o.p.), which includes a greater number of more varied constructions.-Steven Engelfried, West Linn Public Library, OR
Witold Rybczynski of Polish parentage, was born in Edinburgh in 1943, raised in Surrey, and attended Jesuit schools in England and Canada. He received Bachelor of Architecture (1960) and Master of Architecture (1972) degrees from McGill University in Montreal. He is the author of more than fifty articles and papers on the subject of housing, architecture, and technology, including the books Taming the Tiger, Paper Heroes, The Most Beautiful House in the World, Waiting for the Weekend, and Looking Around: A Journey Through Architecture (all available in Penguin), and most recently, City Life. He lives with his wife, Shirley Hallam, in Philadelphia and is the Martin and Margy Myerson Professor of Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania.