Dream Something Big: The Story of the Watts Towersby Dianna Hutts Aston, Susan L. Roth
Between 1921 and 1955, Italian immigrant Simon Rodia transformed broken glass, seashells, pottery, and a dream to "do something big" into a U.S. National Landmark. Readers watch the towers rise from his little plot of land in Watts, California, through the eyes of a fictional girl as she grows and raises her own children. Chronicled in stunningly detailed collage
Between 1921 and 1955, Italian immigrant Simon Rodia transformed broken glass, seashells, pottery, and a dream to "do something big" into a U.S. National Landmark. Readers watch the towers rise from his little plot of land in Watts, California, through the eyes of a fictional girl as she grows and raises her own children. Chronicled in stunningly detailed collage that mimics Rodia's found-object art, this thirty-four-year journey becomes a mesmerizing testament to perseverance and possibility. A final, innovative "build-your-own-tower" activity makes this multicultural, intergenerational tribute a classroom natural and a perfect gift-sure to encourage kids to follow their own big dreams.
“[Aston’s] winding, poetic language evokes the strange beauty of the sculptures themselves.”
Using his hands, simple tools and found pieces of glass, tile and steel, a reclusive Italian immigrant assembled and built the extraordinary Watts Towers in southern California.
A little girl from the neighborhood tells the story as she watches Uncle Sam, as she calls Simon Rodia, collect chips of tile and make mortar from his secret mixture of sand, cement and water. The work, done in evenings and on weekends, spans more than three decades. That little girl grows up and brings her own children to watch in wonder as the towers soar skyward. Her trusting voice and observant eye make her an endearing narrator. "Uncle Sam was like a spider weaving his web / of steel and cement and lacy shadows." Aston's telling is lyrical and reads aloud beautifully. Roth, working in her signature mixed-media collage, is the perfect choice to illustrate the building process. Bits and pieces of photographs, paper and fabric arranged in colorful panels and full-page spreads dazzle the eye. Step-by-step instructions and photographs for constructing a tower from pipe-cleaners provide an excellent follow-up activity.
It was one man's dream to recreate beautiful buildings remembered from his childhood in Italy as a gift to the community. That dream became a National Landmark for all to treasure, and this book brings it to children everywhere. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)
Meet the Author
Susan L. Roth is the author and illustrator of many beautiful books for children. To create the collages for her books, Ms. Roth uses papers from sixteen baskets in her studio, which are lined up by color.
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