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Books About Building Things

Get curious about how things come to be, and inspired to construct your own creations with these reads about building.

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When my son was three, he would gasp at pretty much everything he’d see and ask, “How did they make that?” The answer was never easy, so we turned to books about building things to help us. These titles will inspire your kids, too, whether you have a STEAM-concept lover, a questioner, or one who gets impatient with building processes.

Trying

by Kobi Yamada; illustrated by Elise Hurst (Compendium, 2020)

From the author of The New York Times Best Seller, What Do You Do with An Idea? comes a book for any person who has tried to build something that didn’t quite turn out the way they hoped. A boy watches a sculptor, doubts himself, then finally tries to sculpt, with many failures along the way. The sculptor tells him: [Failure] shows us how something can’t be done, which means we are a little closer to finding out how it can.

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Someone Builds the Dream

by Lisa Wheeler; illustrated by Loren Long (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2021)

Explore the many types of work needed to build things, from a bridge to a wind farm to an amusement park. A favorite of Tattered Cover Book Store and Boulder Public Library staff, the story pays tribute to those who come with the ideas and designs as well as those who do the physical labor.

Building Our House

by Jonathan Bean (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013)

Follow the story of a modern-day family that moves from the city to the country to build a house for themselves. Mom, Dad, the kids, and their extended family all work together, and little by little, the house gets built. It’s the author’s retelling of his own family’s experience, including photos from his collection.

Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention

by Pip Jones; illustrated by Sara Ogilvie (Peachtree Publishing, 2020)

Izzy Gizmo gets a special invitation to the invention convention. The challenge is to make a machine, and the winner gets to be a member of the Genius Guild. The process doesn’t go as planned and there is drama along the way, but in the end, Izzy’s Tool-Fix-Recycle-O-Matic is declared the winner.

If I Built a School

by Chris Van Dusen (Dial Books for Young Readers, 2019)

Through rhyming text, Jack describes to his teacher Miss Jane what school would be like if he built it: Right off the lobby, to get to your class, I’d set up a system of tubes made of glass. You hop in a pod, press the number, then ZOOM! In under ten seconds, you’re right at your room. Also available from the same author is If I Built a House.

The Little Red Fort

by Brenda Maier; illustrated by Sonia Sánchez (Scholastic Press, 2018)

Ruby gets no help from her three brothers when she decides to build a fort (they don’t think she can build, anyway), so she learns how to build one all by herself. When she’s finished, the brothers want to play in the fort, so they get to work adding decorative touches to make it up to Ruby. “Hopefully all kids will be inspired to build their own fort, even if it’s just a blanket or a couple of chairs,” says Scholastic Book Fair Consultant Lici McCuistion, who recommends the book, along with Denver Public Library children’s librarians. Also check out the author and illustrator’s newly released companion book, The Little Blue Bridge.

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Librarians and book experts also recommend:


Trying: Compendium Inc.; Someone Builds the Dream, If I Built a School: Penguin Random House. Building Our House: Macmillan. Izzy Gizmo and the Invention Convention: Peachtree Publishing Company. The Little Red Fort: Scholastic. Background: Emilija Manevska/Getty Images.

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