Dream Builder

By The Horn Book

The achievements of award-winning architect Philip Freelon (1953–2019) are detailed and celebrated in Lyons’s carefully crafted picture-book biography. Born into a family of well-known artists (his grandfather was Harlem Renaissance painter Allan Randall Freelon), businesspeople, and educators, young Phil seemed destined to excel—and excel he did. Exceptionally gifted in both art and engineering, Freelon found reading a challenge (backward and askew letters in the illustrations suggest dyslexia), but perseverance won out. In high school and college he realized that architecture would best suit his talents; when he noticed a lack of representation in his studies, he sought to learn all he could about African and Islamic architects. His commitment and drive led Freelon to what he called the “pinnacle of my career”: his role as lead architect for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In a nod to the architectural process, Freelon’s story is told in five brief parts, entitled Vision, Foundation, Frame, Form, and Dream. Freeman’s illustrations seamlessly incorporate architectural elements (shadows of well-known buildings, gridlines, etc.) into the brilliantly hued digital illustrations. Back matter includes an afterword by Freelon as well as Lyons’s author’s note describing her time interviewing him before his death. A bibliography is appended.