Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon by Kelly Starling Lyons, Illustrated by Laura Freeman [CeCe’s #MustReadin2020 Book Review]

Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip FreelonDream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon by Kelly Starling Lyons
Published: January 2020
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon is one of the picture books that I had on my #MustReadin2020 list. I really enjoy Kelly Starling Lyons’s writing and the connection I feel to the experiences she shares in her work so when I learned that she’d be writing a biography about Philip Freelon, the lead architect for the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), I could not wait to read it.

As it is said in the author’s note, Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon, tells the story of a “young artist who found his calling and used it to honor Black contributions and culture.” He loved to draw and would capture the beauty of the world around him through his work. He would sketch people, buildings, flowers, and other sights he experienced throughout his community. He was a visionary and was able to see the world “with an artist’s inner eye.” This truth rings through each page. He excelled in math and science and pushed through and overcame his struggles with reading. It means so much that this fact was included because I think that it is a part of what will inspire our students who maybe don’t feel like the most confident readers. They’ll find what works for them too and will discover that they are capable of accomplishing great things too.

The book goes on further to highlight Philip Freelon’s achievements and dreams realized through the buildings he designed, including the Tenley-Friendship Neighborhood Library in Washington, DC, the Durham Station Transportation Center in Durham, NC, and more. Culminating with the building of a century-long dream in the form of the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC). In the afterword (written by Philip Freelon) you’ll learn more about Philip Freelon’s heart for his community and social justice. You’ll also get a chance to hear about the interview that Kelly Starling Lyons did with Philip and his family and how this partnership all began. I agree with the recommendation of grades 3-5 and believe that it is a title that should be added to your collection just as I will be adding it to mine.

I have yet to get the opportunity to visit the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC) since it opened its doors to the public in 2016 but I hope to take a trip one day with my family. The good news is that until that time, the NMAAHC’s website has multiple avenues for virtual visitors to engage with the collection and to experience their expanded digital programming. Check out their website for more information: https://nmaahc.si.edu/.

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Kelly Starling Lyons | https://www.kellystarlinglyons.com/

Laura Freeman | https://www.lfreemanart.com/

Lee & Low Books, Inc | https://www.leeandlow.com/

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