PPBF – The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid

None of my children is a visual artist or an architect, but all enjoyed designing and re-designing special places when they were young. From my daughters’ connected castles (with a third, for my husband and me, in the middle), to my son’s over-sized drawing of a zoo, to many hours spent together on the computer designing Syms’ homes and even “real” homes with home design software, my children loved architecture and design. I wish today’s Perfect Picture Book had been available when they were young – I know they would have savored every page!

148144669XTitle: The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid

Written & Illustrated By: Jeanette Winter

Publisher/date: Beach Lane Books (Simon & Schuster)/2017

Suitable for Ages: 5-10

Themes/Topics: STEAM; biography; architecture; persistence

Opening:

In Iraq, rivers flow through green marshes. Wind swoops across sand dunes and through ancient cities. Zaha Hadid sees the rivers and marshes and dunes and ruins with her father and imagines what cities looked like thousands of years ago.

Brief Synopsis: As a child in Iraq, Zaha Hadid loved nature; as an architect, she incorporated the swoosh, zoom and flow of nature into her designs.

Links to Resources:

  • Discover Iraq, the country where Hadid grew up;
  • Learn about architecture and elements of design here and here;
  • See illustrations of some of Hadid’s creations and learn where they are in an Afterword, explore more in the Sources, and see photographs of 10 of Hadid’s best buildings;
  • Find discussion questions and curriculum connections in this review;
  • Design and draw your dream house, classroom, park, or other favorite place.

Why I Like this Book:

In The World is Not a Rectangle, Winter combines sparse, lyrical text with gorgeous, often-full page illustrations to tell the story of architect Zaha Hadid. Like Hadid’s nature-inspired designs, Winter’s text flows and swoops across the pages and recounts Hadid’s journey to become a world-renowned architect, despite being a woman in a male-dominated field and a Muslim. I love how Winter shows the reader the natural scenes that inspired Hadid, and I love the many details Winter shares in her text and illustrations. A particular favorite includes reams of scribbled designs and text that highlight the sense of movement in Hadid’s creations and her belief that “the world is not a rectangle.” This spread, and several others, can be viewed at Simon and Schuster (but are not reproducing well here!).

The text and illustrations work together on many levels to highlight the work of a Muslim female pioneer; to inspire children to persevere and reach for their dreams; and to appreciate these architectural gems.

A Note about Craft:

Winter tells Hadid’s story in the present tense, from her childhood in Iraq, to her days as a student and struggling architect, to her time at the pinnacle of success, to the night when “the light in Zaha’s window goes dark.” Only then does Winter switch to past tense, “[s]he has left this world” before returning to present tense with the revelation that Hadid’s colleagues “keep their lights on…keeping her flame burning bright.” Not only does Winter’s choice of present tense render the story more immediate (similar to using first person point of view, I think), but I believe it’s particularly effective in the biography of a woman whose creations will endure for centuries.

Winter uses sparse, lyrical text interspersed with quotations in this longer than usual, 56-page picture book. I particularly think her verb choices are important ways to incorporate movement in the text, as Hadid, herself, incorporates movement in her architectural designs.

The World is Not a Rectangle is an NCTE 2018 Orbis Pictus honor book.

See a review of another book by Winter:  Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

11 responses to “PPBF – The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid

  1. What a beautiful story about an amazing woman! I like the use of past and present tense to tell the story! I have grandchildren who are architects and engineers and I wished this book was around for them. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Back when I was in high school, I dreamed of becoming an architect- one of many dreams (including a ballerina, concert pianist, and artist). I’m looking forward to reading this book about a remarkable woman who achieved her dream. Thank you for sharing it.

  3. Wow, this one has so much classroom potential. And once again I learn so much from a PB biography!

  4. I have loved every Jeanette Winter book!

  5. Interesting story. I used to love drawing as a kid. Wish this had been around then.

    • While I can’t really draw, my kids used to love to “design” buildings & I know they would have read this one until the pages fell out!

  6. Sue Heavenrich

    I really like this book!

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