Prairie Boy: Frank Lloyd Wright Turns the Heartland Into a Home

by Barb Rosenstock (Author) Christopher Silas Neal (Illustrator)

Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

Frank Lloyd Wright, a young boy from the prairie, becomes America's first world-famous architect in this inspirational nonfiction picture book introducing organic architecture -- a style he created based on the relationship between buildings and the natural world -- which transformed the American home.

Frank Lloyd Wright loved the Wisconsin prairie where he was born, with its wide-open sky and waves of tall grass. As his family moved across the United States, young Frank found his own home in shapes: rectangles, triangles, half-moons, and circles. When he returned to his beloved prairie, Frank pursued a career in architecture. But he didn't think the Victorian-era homes found there fit the prairie landscape. Using his knowledge and love of shapes, Frank created houses more organic to the land. He redesigned the American home inside and out, developing a truly unique architecture style that celebrated the country's landscape and lifestyle.

Author Barb Rosenstock and artist Christopher Silas Neal explore the early life and creative genius of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, highlighting his passion, imagination, and ingenuity.

Publishers Weekly

An obsession with shapes serves as a leitmotif as Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) grows to be a master architect. In Rosenstock's telling, his aesthetic was rooted in a childhood love of his Wisconsin prairie home's natural geometries ("oval milkweed seeds, six-sided honeycombs, and triangle-faced badgers") and his fascination with blocks. Wright's awareness of spatial forms leads to his feeling that "the old European-style houses didn't fit America's landscape," so he strikes out on his own, designing radically different buildings. "In Frank's houses, people stood on shapes, sat on shapes, slept on shapes. They looked through shapes, ate off shapes, played by shape-light." Neal's stylized illustrations are geometrically anchored, with crisp lines and shapes that occasionally echo Wright's signature patterning, and the earnest, informative narrative centers the subject's relatable interests. Substantial supplemental materials include an author's note, sources, and multiple photos of his work, where, "like magic, he shook dozens of shapes from his shirtsleeves." Ages 7-10. (Sept.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 2-5—In this picture book biography of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Rosenstock emphasizes the development of Wright's unique architectural vision; he grew up to believe that houses should fit the landscapes surrounding them and the lifestyle of families living in them. He thought that houses should also include the basic shapes that he had grown to love as a young boy. Instead of focusing on specific buildings Wright created, this book highlights the roots of his thinking—how what he believed as a boy influenced what he did as a grown man. These ideas are reinforced by Neal's illustrations. The rolling, colorful prairie of Wisconsin that Wright loved is in contrast with the gray, rocky coast of New England where his family moved when he was nine. Neal also contrasts the old-style European houses being built on the prairie with Wright's newer vision of a prairie house that fit the landscape. Back matter deepens understanding of Wright's delight in shapes and natural landscapes, and includes photographs of the subject and some of his outstanding architecture. VERDICT An excellent introduction to the ideas behind Wright's architecture. Use with K.L. Going's The Shape of the World and Lynda Waggoner's Fallingwater to learn more about the man who has been called America's greatest architect.—Myra Zarnowski, City University of New York

Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes

'This picture-book biography captures how Frank Lloyd Wright revolutionized the American home. Lyrical text recalls Wright's early passion for architecture and his desire to break away from the old European-style houses he felt didn't match the American landscape. Digitally enhanced mixed-media artwork not only reflects colors that match Wright's moods and physical locales, but also uses geometric shapes to embody his concepts. This look at Wright's creative process will inspire children to take notice of their surroundings." — Booklist 

"This very early introduction to the pre-eminent architect starts with his childhood, rich with prairie influences and a fascination with shapes... a compact narrative... makes clear the impact one person's vision can have. Mixed-media and digital art combines childlike crayon-effectlines and textures with crisply stylized shapes; Neal stealthily builds up the pre-Wright landscape as cluttered with gingerbread houses, arrestingly interrupted with the bold horizontality of an early Wright building. This may help give weight to kids' early play or open up their considerations of their own landscapes..." — The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Barb Rosenstock
BARB ROSENSTOCK is the author of the Caldecott Honor Book The Noisy Paint Box; Vincent Can't Sleep; Through the Window; and Mornings with Monet, all also illustrated by Mary GrandPré, as well as many other books. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband, sons, and two big poodles. Visit her at

ERIKA MEZA is the illustrator of Salsa Lullaby by Jen Arena. She was born in Morelia, in the Mexican state where monarch butterflies go for the winter. She grew up in awe of the phenomenon, and carried the image of the butterfly as a piece of home when she moved to Paris to follow her dream of becoming an author and illustrator. Her themes are born out of the exploration of her migrant essence, her bittersweet relationship with change, and her attachment to innocence and curiosity. She now lives in London. Learn more about Erika at or on Twitter at @ErikaDraws.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Calkins Creek Books
Publication date
September 20, 2019
BISAC categories
JNF025200 - Juvenile Nonfiction | History | United States/19th Century
JNF007020 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Biography & Autobiography | Historical
JNF025210 - Juvenile Nonfiction | History | United States/20th Century
JNF005000 - Juvenile Nonfiction | Architecture
Library of Congress categories
United States
Wright, Frank Lloyd

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