Friday, August 26, 2011


By David Macaulay

(Houghton Mifflin, 2002)

This picture book comes as a surprise. I know David Macaulay as the analytical thinker and an architect who explains to younger readers how structures are built in books like Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction, Castle and The Way Things Work. In Angelo, however, a building only provides the backdrop to a story about an aging Italian worker and a sickly pigeon.

Angelo, the worker, is involved in a meticulous restoration of the sculptural facade of a church. Pigeons who fail to respect the beauty of the structure are partly responsible for his painstaking work. Yet, he discovers one of the birds near death in a crevice and rescues it, hoping to find someone to take it off his hands. He instead nurses the bird back to good health and the two become companions. In time, it is Angelo whose health fails and the bird, by then named Sylvia, attempts to care for him.

Before presenting this book to young readers, know that there isn’t necessarily a traditional happy ending. Still, one character leaves a legacy to care for the other.

This is a touching story about an unusual bond, the aging process and, to a lesser extent, building restoration. It stays with the reader, memories instantly triggered upon glimpsing Macaulay’s detailed, terra cotta-hued drawings. Flip through for a closer look at how the artist provides different perspectives of the church and Rome throughout the book. Ultimately, when considering all aspects of Angelo, the book shares something in common with Macaulay’s other works: there is much to explore during repeat visits.

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