cover image Building


Elisha Cooper. Greenwillow Books, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-688-16494-2

From deserted urban lot to finished structure, this brief, amply illustrated volume documents the process of constructing a three-story building. As in his earlier children's books (Country Fair and Ballpark), Cooper's latest sketchbook strikes his signature pleasing balance between the factual and the whimsical. Watercolor and pencil illustrations combine small-scale, intentionally rudimentary images of busy workers with views of the building's structural progress. Often presented as extended captions, the narrative is as sprightly and informal as the artwork: a backhoe ""gnaws into the earth and scoops up dirt like a messy eater trying to bring food to its mouth."" Abundant anecdotes bring a refreshing, true-to-life quality to this chronicle (the hands of a worker smoothing wet concrete ""are crusted in gunk and he has to use his wrist to push his glasses up his nose""; a contractor lugging toilets upstairs ""bumps into walls and can't see her feet""). The text runs up and down the pages--and occasionally even upside down. In one particularly playful arrangement of type, the words appear to spill from the spout of a cement mixer. Smoothly planting technical terms and techniques alongside a layperson's detailed observations, Cooper constructs a cheerful tribute to a significant accomplishment. Ages 4-up. (Apr.)