Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin




Thursday, November 2, 2017

On Becoming A Part Of The Natural Landscape

Some build their homes high above the ground among the leaves of a tree.  Others seek a hollow in that very tree, mid-way down or on the ground. Some construct massive towers out of dirt.  Others dig tunnels and barrows beneath the dirt.  Gray paper is used to shape those chambered globes hanging from trees.  The animal kingdom is inventive and adaptable in fashioning its residences.

You would think humans would learn from animals that form their abodes to harmonize with their surroundings and to withstand changes in their environment.  We rarely do but there was one phenomenal woman who did.  The world is not a rectangle: A Portrait Of Architect Zaha Hadid (Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division, August 22, 2017) written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter is the story of a planner who saw the world around her and honored it with her designs.

In Iraq, rivers flow through green marshes.

Air like the water moves over and around sand and ruins from the past.  A little girl Zaha sees all this with her father and dreams of cities long gone.  Inside her home she recognizes hues and forms blending like the water and air over sand and marshes.  Her clothes, of her own design, and the furniture in her room are a reflection of what she observes in nature.

As a Muslim, attending Catholic school, who favors math above all else, she still dreams of cities long gone.  Yearning to make those visions a reality, she moves to London to study architecture.  With her learning she puts pencil to paper and paint to walls, bringing the past into the present.  After graduation with her degree, she and a handful of friends open an office in a large building calling it Studio 9.

The plans she creates and submits in competitions are strikingly singular.  Even when a design wins, a city committee rejects it.  Time and time again Zaha enters competitions but her ideas are not brought to life.  There is strength in Zaha, a fire which refuses to be extinguished.  She does not stop. 

If you see towers resembling swaying grasses in marshes, think of Zaha Hadid.  If you see the interior of an opera house similar to an oyster shell, think of Zaha Hadid.  If you see a bridge comparable to the waves on the water beneath it, think of Zaha Hadid.  In never giving up, the one office expands to every space available in the old school building.  Hundreds of architects work to make Zaha's visions a reality. 

She expands her creativity to toys, clothing and furniture.  She does not stop until her heart does.  Even in death, her dreams endure through the efforts of like-minded people working in her business. 


Through meticulous research, many primary sources, Jeanette Winter models the story of Zaha Hadid much like she herself designed buildings.  She thoughtfully combines the history of Zaha Hadid's life to supply readers with a narrative which turns and swirls like water and air.  In the length of her sentences and the combination of information, she supplies a cadence.  The repetition of specific phrases and verbs enhances this beat.  Here are two sample sentences.

Zaha looks at stones in a stream
and builds an opera house like the pebbles in the water.

Inside the opera house, a singer is the pearl in the oyster shell.


On the front of the matching dust jacket and book case Jeanette Winter has placed an adult Zaha Hadid with an armful of blueprints, representative of the woman's continuous ideas.  Above the water and grasses of a marsh are Signature Towers proposed to rise in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  To the left, on the back, little girl Zaha sits among sand dunes wondering about cities from long ago.  It is a slightly smaller interior image set on a white background.

Pale mint green colors the opening and closing endpapers.  On the title page an older Zaha wrapped in clothing of her own design holds planet earth, the world, in her hands.  With each page turn images are placed on a canvas of white.  Their shapes, the framing and edges, mirror the text.

Many of them are single page pictures but for dramatic effect Jeanette Winter expands the illustrations to two pages for the buildings completed by Zaha.  These are in full color, page edge to page edge.  She places Zaha within the natural setting drawing or observing as the finished project is revealed on the right.  It is a marvelous depiction of the woman and her work.

One of my many favorite illustrations shows Zaha standing in a stream as water flows past her.  All we see are her bare feet, ankles and a portion of her legs near two stones.  The stream crosses the gutter to the right.  An enormous opera house built in the likeness of the stones overlooks a river in China.  The shift in point of view is a tribute to the creative mind of Zaha Hadid.


With each reading of The world is not a rectangle: A Portrait Of Architect Zaha Hadid written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter your admiration for the perseverance and perspective of this woman grows. Her contributions to the world of architecture are unmatched.  On the four concluding pages thumbnails of interior illustrations name the completed buildings designed by Zaha Hadid and where they are located.  Quotations by and further information about Zaha Hadid are included along with a small author's note and extensive source list. You will certainly want a copy of this book on your professional shelves and in your personal collection. 

As I do with any nonfiction picture book I read, I did more personal research.  I discovered the Broad Art Museum located on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan was designed by Zaha Hadid.  It opened on November 10, 2012. 

If you desire to view interior illustrations from this title please visit the publisher's website.  A page dedicated to Jeanette Winter has been compiled by the Central Rappahannock Regional Library.  It has several links to other sources.  Jeanette Winter is featured in an interview at A Mighty Girl website.


Please be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy hosted by educator Alyson Beecher to read about the selection of other bloggers participating in the 2017 Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge.



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