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The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale

A Storybook for Design-Minded Tots

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The Three Little Pigs - An Architectural Tale by Steven Guarnaccia

The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale by Steven Guarnaccia

Abrams Books for Young Readers
"Once upon a time, there were three little pigs who lived in a big house in the forest," writes author/illustrator Steven Guarnaccia. But these aren't the pigs you may remember from your childhood. Guarnaccia, who is chair of the illustration program at Parsons the New School for Design, has recreated the classic trio as architects. After drawing numerous sketches and renderings, Guarnaccia's pigs build modernist masterpieces.

Moral of the Story

Just as in the original fairy tale, Guarnaccia's pigs must outwit a big bad wolf who keeps huffing, puffing, and blowing their houses down. First the wolf demolishes a house made of scraps (the Gehry House by Frank Gehry), and then the wolf destroys a house made of glass (the Glass House by Philip Johnson). Finally the architect-pigs find safety in a house made of stone and concrete (Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright).

Now you might wonder how it is that Fallingwater, with its legendary structural problems, proved stronger than houses by Gehry and Johnson. Is the author telling us that Wright's vision is more enduring? That modernist architecture is flawed? Never mind. Guarnaccia's Three Little Pigs is meant for children. A search for deeper meanings would spoil the fun.

And this book is fun! Guarnaccia's cartoon-like illustrations are engaging and the antics of the three pigs are amusing and inspiring. The moral - as in the original fairy tale - is that bullies can be defeated if you are clever and hardworking.

Famous Buildings in The Three Little Pigs

The best part of Three Little Pigs is, of course, the artwork. The architect-pigs draft plans for many buildings before they construct their own homes. Pour over the pages and try to identify the buildings. See if you can find any designed by women. (Brace yourself for disappointment on that point.) Then, find the answers on the endpapers.

Buildings Illustrated:

  • The Gamble House, 1908, by Greene and Greene
  • Geodesic Dome, 1945, by Buckminster Fuller
  • The Gehry House, 1978, by Frank Gehry
  • The Seagram Building, 1958, by Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson
  • UFA Cinema Center, 1998, by Coop Himmelb(l)au
  • The Glass House, 1949, by Philip Johnson
  • The Crystal House, 1934, by George Fred Keck
  • Einstein Tower, 1917, by Erick Mendelsohn
  • Villa Savoye, 1929, by Le Corbusier
  • Monument for the Third International, 1920, by Vladimir Tatlin
  • Louvre Pyramid, 1989, by I.M. Pei
  • Sydney Opera House, 1973, by Jorn Utzon
  • Fallingwater, 1935, by Frank Lloyd Wright

Products and Furnishings in The Three Little Pigs

Guarnaccia's architect-pigs also furnish their homes with chairs and products from the world's great designers. Identify them if you can, then find the answers on the endpapers.

Products and Furnishings Illustrated:

  • Marine D'Abord Rug, 1927, by Eileen Gray
  • Juicy Salif Juicer, 1990, by Philippe Starck
  • Cantilever Side Chair, 1926, by Mart Stam
  • Berlin Chair, 1923, by Gerrit Rietveld
  • Hardoy Chair, 1938, by Jorge Ferrari-Hardoy
  • First Chair, 1983, by Michele de Lucchi
  • Le Corbusier Armchair, 1902, by Thonet
  • Wiggle Side Chair, 1972, by Frank Gehry
  • Lampadina Lamp, 1972, by Achille Castiglioni
  • Arizona Rug, 1984, by Nathalie du Pasquier
  • Tulip Dining Table, 1956, by Eero Saarinen
  • Hollywood Vase, 1958, by Ettore Sottsass
  • Radio Nurse, 1937, by Isamu Noguchi
  • La Conica Espresso Pot, 1984, by Aldo Rossi
  • Voxan GTV 1200, 2008, by Philippe Starck
  • Dymaxion Car, 1934, by Buckminster Fuller

Bottom Line

Relax and stop looking for deep meanings. Read this book aloud to your preschooler, giggle over the delightful drawings, and let your child discover that architecture can be lots of fun.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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