“Jane’s large ideas grew from many small observations. She listened to ‘snatches of party conversation’ or sometimes to singing or even crying at three o’clock in the morning…Jane saw that, day or night, the street was safe because it was always in use. To her, these comings and goings appeared as ‘an intricate sidewalk ballet.'” (p. 39)
During the early 1960s, a book called The Death and Life of Great American Cities changed the way many people think about city life and city planning. Jane Jacobs, the author of this book, was a well known presence during the urban renewal movement of the 1950s. Despite a lack of formal architectural training, Jacobs offered a fresh perspective on what makes city life operate successfully. Her keen observations and willingness to back up her convictions with action made Jacobs a force to be reckoned with when modern ideas about demolition, expansion and renovation threatened the rich and vibrant city she loved.
Both a biography of Jacob’s life and the book that made her infamous, Genius of Common Sense is an insightful and quick read that encourages young people to not only observe the world around them, but also that their actions can have a powerful effect on the world.
Genuis of Common Sense by Glenna Lang and Marjory Wunsch
Young Adult | 128 pages | April 2009 | David R. Godine | 1567923844 | Library copy
Blue Balliett’s sequel to Chasing Vermeer takes Petra, Calder and Tommy on another whirlwind adventure to solve an architecture mystery. This time, the 3 are focused on saving the famous Robie House, designed by world renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright, from (fictional) destruction. As in her first novel, Balliett uses puzzles, mathematics, coincidence, art and literature to move the mystery along. In The Wright 3, she also explores the relationships between Petra, Calder and Tommy. Can old and new friends fit together? Are three brains really better than two?
Sadly, Balliett’s conclusion is severely lacking. There is so much build-up that the ending just feels…rushed. Some of the supernatural elements (which, to me, were some of the most intriguing parts) are never explained and all of the clues Petra, Calder and Tommy explored don’t neatly add up to how the novel turns out. The concept of red herrings is discussed several times in the book, and I wonder whether Balliett tossed some of these “extras” in to act as red herrings to the reader. It’s a shame, though, because I think following those leads may have been more interesting.
Despite the abrupt ending, I was overall satisfied with The Wright 3. It prompted me to contemplate the relationships between art, architecture and life and got me doing some outside research on the Robie House and the life of Wright.