Book Review: Construction, by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock

Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock will be at the Wellington Storylines Family Day this Sunday 24 August. The Children’s Bookshop will be selling this book there, but it is not released into other stores until Monday 1 September. 

A few years ago I knew nothing about pre-school construction books, but since having my son – a serious collector of anything to do with diggers – I feel I can claim expert status.cv_construction

Construction is the new children’s book by Sally Sutton and Brian Lovelock, the pair who created the award-winning Roadworks and its followup, Demolition. Sutton has been quoted as saying, ‘For me, language is music. I want my books to sound good!’ This is certainly the case with Construction, which is noisy and energetic. Aimed at ages two to five, the story follows the construction of a library, from a digger first breaking the ground, to the building’s roof going on. At the end of the story a group of children visit the new library: ‘Ready … Steady … Read!’

Construction uses a similar structure to that of Roadworks – a description of the action followed by onomatopoeic words – and while this isn’t original, it’s certainly effective. The repetition and rhyme allows pre-schoolers to easily learn the story, and they will be excited to make these sounds along with the reader. As a parent, the book is fun to read aloud. For example, the first page: ‘Dig the ground. Dig the ground. Bore down in the mud. Shove the piles in one by one. Slip! Slap! Thud!’

Brian Lovelock has created the book’s illustrations with pigmented inks, and the bright colours and paint splatter effect are textural and interesting. While both my son and I enjoyed making the loud noises, it was Lovelock’s illustrations that held our interest. My son asked about many of the details and this allowed me to talk to him about the different aspects of the construction process. Through the illustrations Lovelock brings concrete mixers, diggers, trucks, powertools, and a pair of very splattered painters to life. The painters page is probably my favourite: ‘Glug! Glop! Gloop!’

Lovelock’s style is three dimensional and technical, and he often uses perspective to create interest. We see the library roof being fitted from a bird’s-eye-view, while the illustration of the skill-saw is a closeup. These are wonderfully open and generous illustrations. One of the most positive aspects of the book is the female builders, some of who are in charge of the action. This is a change from other picture books about heavy machines or building sites, which often have all male characters. The book’s final message, that “the library’s here for everyone” and kids can “borrow all you need,” is also different from other building books, which often focus on the machines and noise. It’s a sweet reminder that it was a book that let us see into the world of construction.

Written by Sarah Jane Barnett

Written by Sally Sutton, illustrated by Brian Lovelock
Walker Books, 2014
$15.99 RRP, hardback
ISBN 9781922077301