Review by Booklist Review
This beautifully illustrated picture book takes a rather mundane topic and turns it into something mysterious, ancient, and unlimited. Accessible introductory text with built-in definitions of new vocabulary words explains what concrete is and how it's different from cement. A history of the substance begins with concrete's earliest recorded use, in Turkey around 9,600 BCE, and goes to the Roman Empire (Roman architects reinforced their concrete with volcanic ash, making it superstrong and long-lasting). Alas, the recipe for concrete was lost after the fall of the empire, so builders went back to stone until the eighteenth century, when there was great need for material that would harden underwater, primarily for bridges and lighthouses. This led to a resurgence in concrete, especially once concrete reinforced with steel beams came along. Technical aspects are explained in simple terms deftly reinforced through the detailed illustrations done in pen-and-ink and watercolor. The drawings also feature various cartoon bystanders who provide side commentary and observations. Before the bibliography, the book ends with examples of how artists, engineers, and architects have used concrete in monumental, wild, and even whimsical ways, along with an invitation for readers to imagine future uses. This creative STEAM offering belongs in most collections.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Opening with a definition of the composite substance before progressing through a loose chronology of key innovations, Theule and Light whisk readers from the Göbekli Tepe to the Three Gorges Dam, the Berlin Wall, and beyond in this fascinating continent- and history-spanning introduction to concrete's wonders. Quippy speech bubbles and typeset prose tell the story, while pen, ink, and watercolor cartoon images depict famous landmarks and people, portrayed with a range of skin tones, across time. While Roman buildings play an outsize role in the book's first half, later passages delve into 18th-century civil engineer John Smeaton's waterproof concrete recipe; the development of reinforced concrete and its role in the construction of skyscrapers, bridges, and dams; and contemporary architectural applications. A breezy, accessible tone keeps the heavy-duty subject feeling light. A bibliography concludes. Ages 7--10. (Sept.)
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Review by School Library Journal Review
Gr 1--5--As unpretentious but essential as its subject, this is a marvelous book--an utterly compelling read. Theule (Kafka and the Doll) tells the story of concrete (not cement, but a composite material that uses cement), from ancient times to its rediscovery in the 18th century, and in pared-down style introduces readers to advanced vocabulary ("tensile," "compressive," "monolithic"); architectural monuments (the Pantheon, King Lalibela's Ethiopian rock churches, the Three Gorges Dam); professions (gladiator, emperor, civil engineer); social history (Göbekli Tepe, the building and demolition of the Berlin Wall); and more, with clarity, directness, and humor. Everything is conversationally explained: when "plastic" is used to mean "moldable," a brief speech balloon conveys that meaning. The spare but lively ink and watercolor illustrations are a perfect match for the text: unassuming but amusing, rich in detail and meaning. Iconic buildings in Sydney, Kobe, and Baku are depicted, as well as Nancy Halt's Sun Tunnels in Utah. Skin tones vary, even on toga-clad figures. Back matter includes a brief bibliography. VERDICT For elementary readers and up, this book will be read again and again.--Patricia Lothrop
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Review by Horn Book Review
Roads, bridges, basketball courts, skyscrapers -- so much of our world is made out of concrete, the combination of stone, sand, water, and cement that is our most ubiquitous modern building material. Without getting too bogged down in technical nitty-gritty, Theule presents readers with the fascinating story of concrete, from its ancient nonstructural uses to today's massive feats of engineering. The brief, clear expository text delivers the information well (as readers learn, for instance, the difference between tensile strength and compressive strength), with additional details provided by conversational, often humorous word balloons from various figures found in the illustrations. Light's pen, ink, and watercolor art is bright and engaging, with plenty of white space. Occasional double-page spreads convey the magnitude of the giant structures depicted, such as the Roman Colosseum, Three Gorges Dam, and Salginatobel Bridge, all made possible by the invention of reinforced concrete. Bright blues and greens are used throughout, highlighting the environment and providing contrast to the gray and earth-tone structures. Hand this to fans of Macaulay's building books (such as Castle and Underground). A bibliography is appended. Eric Carpenter September/October 2022 p.113(c) Copyright 2022. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
An eye-opening survey of this ubiquitous building material's history and uses. Continuing the architectural theme of his 2018 tour of a construction site, Builders and Breakers, Light offers informal but usefully detailed portraits of concrete buildings and other structures, from the Pantheon to modern skyscrapers and the Sydney Opera House--lightened by occasional additions like the rabbits ("Whole herds of happy hoppers!") that lived in the gap between the two Berlin walls and often depicted with a racially diverse cast of inventors, engineers, and general commentators in attendance. Meanwhile, along with explaining concrete's composition, strengths, and weaknesses, Theule chronicles its appearances through the ages, beginning in Neolithic Göbekli Tepe and in cultures from the ancient Mayans to Chinese Dadiwan, saluting the ancient Romans in particular, highlighting the crucial development of reinforced concrete and of formulations that would set even under water, and closing with the tantalizing suggestion that the wonderfully adaptable stuff has a future as bright as its past. (This book was reviewed digitally.) Lays down a foundation of basic knowledge as solid as its topic. (bibliography) (Informational picture book. 9-11) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.