Last week I was in a Year 1 classroom for the day and this was my choice to share with them. As our pre-reading chat I invited the kiddos to suggest what it might be about after showing them the cover and the [gorgeous] endpapers. Art, artists, drawing were all very astute suggestions. Then I read them Utzon’s quote on the title page: “The architect’s gift to society is to bring joy to the people from the surroundings they create.” and invited their ideas about what an architect does. Most responded with a variation on the artist idea but one bright little button told us ‘An architect draws and designs buildings’ so he got an enthusiastic round of applause when I confirmed his definition.
As we read about the little boy, Jørn, and his experiments with shape, form and structure, we discussed the concept of imagination and ‘dreaming’ in the sense of the ‘what could be’. By the time we arrived at a grown up Jørn submitting his magnicent idea to a competition in Sydney, some of the more aware children were starting to put things together and certainly at the point where the magnificent building is under construction, there were many excited cries of ‘It’s the Sydney Opera House!’. Clever little cookies :-).
There was some very keen discussion following on who had been to Sydney and seen the Opera House but they were most entranced when I told them that my Dad had taken me there as a child (late 60s) onto the building site and we walked around checking it out and bringing home a piece of broken tile as a memento (WHS wasn’t a thing back then!).
We wrapped up our session by talking about the importance of imagination for creating a future that is going to be great, for improving on things as they are and how that’s not only building things but being custodians to protect things as well. I wish it had been my own class so that we could have done some follow up activities such as those suggested in the teaching notes.
Both the text and the illustrations in this charming picture book are perfectly pitched to deliver both a learning experience about an important episode of our national history, with the creation of one of the world’s most iconic buildings and this amazing ability we humans have to imagine. I congratulate both Coral and Nicky for producing such an exquisite factional narrative for our younger readers.
Highly recommended for readers from Prep to around Year 4.