Friday, May 22, 2020

Freeform Friday: 3 Books for the Budding Builder (including Architek, Super Robot, and The Future Architect's Handbook)

Does your little one love to build things?  
Are you looking for some hands-on activities 
to keep that budding architect busy?  
Below are our reviews of three books that might interest you.

  • Architek by Dominique Erhrhard
  • Super Robot by Arnaud Roi
  • The Future Architect's Handbook by Barbara Beck, Architect


Architek by Dominique Ehrhard 

An introduction to architectural creation, the 95 precut cardboard elements in this book can be combined in an infinite variety of ways to build all sorts of fantastical structures.  Follow the full-color idea diagrams to create more than 20 unique projects, then disassemble them and try something different.  Develop direction-following skills and 3-D creativity, this kit allows young architects to both learn traditional design rules and break them.  Alternate the color and black-and-white facade graphics to customize your creations -- no glue or fasteners needed, just slot into place!  The vibrant cutouts increase spatial visualization skills while giving future architects first-hand experience with color, form, and pattern.  

(Image is my own -  Description from -  Book given to me for free in exchange for an honest review.)

My Review:  Measuring 5x5x2 inches, you'd think this book doesn't have much room for anything, but Architek offers big, creative fun in a very small package.  The book is comprised of 95  cardboard pieces of various shapes and sizes that can be popped out of the page and then fit together in countless ways.  The cards are double-sided, with colorful designs on one side and black and white designs on the other.  In addition to the building pieces, there are 31 pages of easy-to-follow diagrams to help you or your kids get the hang of things and create amazing structures with a little bit of guidance.

Image may contain: 1 person, sittingI was very impressed with how this book was put together, thought it makes sense that a book about structural design would itself be well-constructed.  The pages (and subsequent building pieces) were made of thick, high-quality cardboard that doesn't rip easily. I think we've all had the experience of unintentionally tearing something that wasn't properly perforated, so I was relieved that the pieces popped out so quickly and easily.  I also loved that the book continued to hold its box-like form even after all the pieces had been removed.  Even though I gutted it (see picture above), it still looks like a proper book!

Architek is meant for children ages 5-8, but I think it would be entertaining for anyone over the age of three who likes building things.  My littlest (who turns 8 in a few days) seemed to like it the most of all my children and built quite a few structures from the book and even a few from her own imagination.  She was so proud of herself and I was thrilled because she was entertained while I was making dinner.  After a few days, some of the shine wore off, so I threw it in a bag with all the pieces and stuck it in our 'art' closet, which is where my kids tend to stow, forget about, and then excitedly rediscover all sorts of creative activities.  A week later, she had it back out again.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Super Robot by Arnaud Roi

Build a 14-inch-tall super robot while encouraging hand-eye coordination and following directions.  Color-coded flaps and easy-to-follow directions help kids create their own super robot by using the punch-out pages provided and a detailed diagram.  They will learn to follow step-by-step instructions, pay attention to small details, and develop visual-spatial skills while practicing their counting and colors as well.  

(Description and Image from  - Book given to me for free in exchange for an honest review)

My Review:  Super Robot is a fairly straightforward kind of activity book.  As the description on the back of the book states: Pop out the pieces and follow the directions to build your very own 2-foot-tall robot.  There are about three pages of instructions and then ten pages of robot parts to pop-out and assemble.  If you've been reading closely you'll notice that some put the robot at 2 feet high while others place it closer to 14-inches.  The latter is correct.

No photo description available.
Although this book is leveled for early readers (ages 5-8), my almost eight-year-old didn't stand a chance of getting to build it because her fourteen-year-old sister claimed the book as her own the second it emerged from the box.  She has a thing for robots.  You can see a picture of the robot in progress to the right.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing
The robot parts were printed on card-stock like paper and were meant to pop out along perforations and then be bent into different shapes.  Some of the thinner pieces were a little trickier to rip out, but she managed, and did it all without assistance.  The instructions suggested using either liquid glue or double-sided tape to put things together. (Always choose double-sided tape, unless you like things that take forever to dry and are messy).  Overall, this activity kept my teen busy for a few hours and I was thrilled because she had fun that didn't come from a screen. *GASP*  It's a flipping miracle.

My teen didn't particularly want her picture taken on the day in question, so you'll have to settle for an image of the finished project, affectionately named Toby 2.0, with a far more willing subject -- one who has taken to stealing the robot at every opportunity.

My Rating: 3.5 Stars


The Future Architect's Handbook by Barbara Beck, Architect

For children with a passion for drawing or dreams of creating buildings, this book explores how architects really work, taking the young reader through the entire process for planning and designing a house.  Learn about an architect's four main drawings: the Site Plan, Floor Plan, Section, and Elevation -- including the concept of drawing each plan to scale.  Aspiring architects discover design techniques, along with different exciting architectural styles used today.

All of this is brought to life in freehand, pen-and-ink architectural drawings that will inspire children to apply these lessons to their own designs.  This book is the perfect introduction to architecture, revealing why buildings look and function as they do.  While this creative book is idea for middle grades, ages 9-12, even adults will find it inspiring. 

(Description from back of book - Images from - Book given to me for free in exchange for an honest review)

My Review:  The Future Architect's Handbook is the perfect book for the kid who genuinely loves to plan, draw, invent, create, and build.  You won't see anything like A is for Architecture. B is for Building. C is for Code Enforcement.  It's meant for middle grade readers and up.  Instead, your aspiring architect will follow a young man named Aaron as he contemplates designing his own home.  They will learn about basic architectural terms, like orientation, function,and scale; how to draw different types of plans, namely, site, floor, section, and elevation; and other things to consider when designing a building, like landscaping, light, and style.

A book about architectural design could end up rather dry for younger readers, but Beck manages to keep things light, interesting, and relevant.  She concludes with a brief summary, shows how the plans will be used in construction, ties everything together, and even invites readers to trace Aaron's own drawings and use them as a base for their own creations.  Overall, I thought The Architect's Handbook was a brilliant way to explain architecture to kids who are  interested in the profession and give them the basic knowledge and skills to turn around and enhance their own designs.  My younger brother is an architect and, once my kiddos are done perusing, I am excited to ship this book off to his kids, so they can learn a little bit about what their dad does every day. They are sure to enjoy it.

My Rating: 3.75 Stars


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