Perfect Picture Book Friday: DREAM SOMETHING BIG


AUTHOR: Dianna Hutts Aston


PUBLICATION INFO: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3245-2

SOURCE: Library

INTENDED AUDIENCE: age 4 – 8 (Kirkus)

GENRE: picture book (nonfiction, I think)


“One chip of tile. Uncle Sam held it in his hand, studying it, his imagination turning like a kaleidoscope. He put it in his pocket. ‘I’m gonna do something big,’ I heard him say.”

Dianna Hutts Aston tells the tale of how a reclusive Italian immigrant spent 34 years building the Watts Towers  — now a National Landmark — out of rebar, mesh, broken glass and tile. Then he gave a neighbor the deed to the property and walked away.

THEMES/TOPICS: history, folk art

WHY I LIKE THIS BOOK: Roth’s collages are the perfect accompaniment to this little-known story, evoking the towers’ mosaics. Aston’s story is a fascinating look at a little-known folk artist told simply for the youngest readers. It sends the message that anyone can be an artist.


  • Aston’s book contains instructions for building your own Watts Towers out of pipe cleaners and other craft materials.
  • Learn more about the Watts Towers, including how to visit, here.
  • A 1957 video about the towers and Simon Rodia can be found here. A documentary called, “I Build the Tower” is also available.

Every Friday bloggers review “Perfect Picture Books.” Find a complete list of book reviews organized by topic, genre and blogger at author Susanna Leonard Hill’s site.

18 thoughts on “Perfect Picture Book Friday: DREAM SOMETHING BIG”

  1. What a magnificent choice Kirsten. I was spellbound by the video and watched the entire thing! All I could think was this man was an “old soul” — so humble and selfless. What he accomplished is a sigfnifcant message for young people. His artwork is inspirational and I am so happy that Aston and Roth joined to tell this story! I am so pleased it has been designated a historic site.

    1. It’s an amazing story. Can you imagine building something for 34 years and then giving it your community and walking away? It’s incredible. Cooper (age 6) could hardly believe it was a real story.

      1. I don’t think he ever felt it “belonged” to him. It built with his gifts, and the only thing he could do was give to is community. His work was completed.

  2. What a fantastic story… which I know NOTHING about, and will have to read this book immediately to remedy the situation! Amazing what you learn on PPBFs! Thanks so much for adding this to our list, Kirsten – it sounds terrific!

  3. Oh my goodness, Kirsten…what a lovely story. And the message, that anyone can be an artist, is a powerful one and important for young children to learn.:) It sounds like there are many other messages in this book…I will get a copy so I can read it. I love your resource/activity list.:)

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