We've been lucky enough to have been gifted many children's books over the years; I'm talking multiple bookshelves worth. We're also fans of the library, so apart from the occasional bookfair flyer home from school pressure we rarely purchase new books. Maybe its because most of our books are hand-me-downs, but It never ceases to amaze me how poorly written many of the books out there are. I mean, some of them are downright horrible. I feel embarrassed for the author while I am reading them to my 2 year old. For example: Just this morning I read a story about 3 ice skating elephants. The first two (a male and female) skate fast and slow, but always together. They are apparently an item. The third comes along and catches the male elephant's eye. He becomes so dizzy with the thought of skating with the new elephant that he falls through the ice. His original girl comes and saves him, so now he only will skate with her. Anywhooo...
When I come across a great book that happens to also deal with design, I can't help but share it. Two such books written by Chris Van Dusen are the top of my list and are definitely worthy of purchasing new. If I built a House and If I Built a Car both involve a clever little boy who while bored with his average house/car invents a new design for each. The stories are both great examples of how the imagination can make life way more interesting. In IF I BUILT A Car, Jack designs a vehicle that embodies a typical childlike fantasy with its hide-a-way pool, conveyer belt snack bar, driving robot, and retractable wings. VanDusen touches upon designing for the 5 senses with ideas like an engine that converts gasoline fumes into a more pleasing smell (like blueberry muffins) and even considers passenger safety with a special polymer gel exterior that doesn't dent.
The humor, whimsy, and practical lessons of the design process make this probably the best book I have read to my kids so far and one perfect for the classroom. Plus, it rhymes, and I am pretty sure that all children's books should rhyme.
This book does NOT disappoint the older student. I have read it to my 8th graders as a fun break from designing their linear perspective interiors and every one of them sat quietly with wide eyes as I read. Even my 10th graders enjoyed flipping through and remarked on the design process that the book covered.
Special thanks to Aunt Vicki for gifting If I built a House!!
I have been teaching art and design at the middle and high school level since 2006 and learning about both for a lot longer.