Review: Frank, Who Liked to Build

Frank, Who Liked to Build: The Architecture of Frank Gehry

by Deborah Blumenthal, illustrated by Maria Brzozowska

Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2022

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Belinda Brock

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FRANK, WHO LOVED TO BUILD introduces us to the iconic architect Frank Gehry. As a young boy, he spent most of his time dreaming and playing despite his parents’ disapproval, although he found support from his grandmother. We follow him through his life as he continues to dream and play, achieving success as an architect. The author’s descriptive, lyrical style fits well with her subject. The language used is appropriate for young readers.

I have always thought that an extra burden is placed on illustrators of books about artists. After all, they have to evoke the spirit of the art without actually replicating it. Brzozowska is able to accomplish that here with her striking, brilliantly-colored art. Of course, she focuses on the shapes and curves that defined Gehry’s designs.

Most scenes depict Frank and his family, who are white Jews. There is one scene set in a Los Angeles park that includes people with a variety of skin tones.

The back matter contain six photographs of extraordinary buildings Gehry designed. There is also a photograph of the architect, looking proud and happy (in contrast to how he appears in the book). A timeline might have been a good addition, as when I finished reading, I googled Frank Gehry to see if he is still alive (he is!).

Jewish content is woven through the text. Frank has warm memories of his grandmother baking challah and allowing him to sculpt shapes with the dough, and the carp that she turned into gefilte fish reappears in the many fish motifs he used in his designs. Additionally, the antisemitism he encountered in both Canada and California prompted him to change his name from Goldberg to Gehry, although he remained conflicted about this decision. In the back matter, we learn that he believes that the Talmud encouraged his curiosity and wonder.

This book provides an interesting look at the creative process—the sources of inspiration, the repeated attempts, the doubts, the risk-taking—that could be a springboard for a discussion on this topic for parents, teachers, and librarians.

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Reviewer Belinda Brock earned a MS in Literacy and Language from University of Chicago and her background is in teaching and educational publishing. She authored GG and Mamela, the first children’s book to address hospice care. Her essays have been featured on Kveller, Jewish Women’s Archive, and HuffPost. She has a picture book biography being released in 2022.