Whether your kid is in the “truck” phase, the “digging holes in the ground” phase, or the “stacking all the LEGOs on one tower” phase, their obsession with building things isn’t going anyway soon. You may as well indulge it with one of these books, all of which celebrate the ingenuity, honest labor, and satisfaction that come with creating something with your hands. You’re on your own when they ask what you do with your hands all day long.
Extremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery
The titular extremely cute animals just want to build an awesome sandcastle, but bullies Skyler, Mike, and Trent (with those names, how could they not be bullies?) are out to destroy all that extremely cute construction. This sends Karen and her friends into a sports movie-like montage, complete with industrial grade tools and machines, which ends with a creation even the bullies can’t destroy. It’s a story that reminds kids that just because they’re little doesn’t mean the aren’t tough and, yes, it’s extremely cute.
Ages: 4 – 8
Extremely Cute Animals Operating Heavy Machinery by David Gordon ($12)
Iggy Peck Architect
Iggy is a young architect who will build with just about any material, including dirty diapers. Iggy’s second grade teacher is a total killjoy who fails to recognize Gehry-level genius in its youth. So, he sets out to change her mind and saves her ass in the process. From the same author/illustrator duo who brought your kid Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Ada Twist Scientist, Iggy Peck is a delightful compliment to any STEM-focused book shelf for kids who are probably already making more money than you.
Ages: 5 and up
Iggy Peck: Architect by Andrea Beaty ($10)
Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel
A classic retelling of the Paul Bunyan story, only this time the steamshovel is the hero, not the villain. Mike Mulligan And His Steam Shovel was first published back in 1939, when the nation was apparently more enamoured of heavy machinery than massive blue mutant oxen, but the lesson remains the same throughout: there will always be a newer, bigger, faster version of you coming down the pike, but heart, hard work, and determination can outlast mere technical progress. Clearly, Virginia Lee Burton never saw The Terminator.
Ages: 4 – 7
Mike Mulligan and His Stream Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton ($6)
Another book that uses the “What will it be?” plot device to keep your kid (ok, and also you) guessing until the very end, Construction lives up to its title. It lovingly details the birth of a building, step by step, and with playful use of perspective to illustrate scale. The book prominently features plenty of women and an ethnically diverse worksite, so it’s a bit of a departure from most construction stories. This holds true for the big reveal as well, which winds up being (spoiler!) a big library.
Ages: 3 – 7
Construction by Sally Sutton ($14)
Who Made This Cake?
A clever book about a world where everyone’s birthday cake is assembled by a crew of tiny construction workers that seems to think they’re building the next World Trade Center tower. It’s a nice reminder that tiny people can do whatever they set their minds to, except eat all that birthday cake. A guy has to set some limits.
Ages: 4 – 7
Who Made This Cake by Chihiro Nakagawa ($13)
A Year At A Construction Site
The construction of a new school takes place over the course of 8 insanely detailed spreads, which are sort of like a Where’s Waldo book but without Waldo (so, you know, better). Instead, your kid will lose hours looking for demolished toilets and a reappearing survey crew. The only downside is you’ll wind up losing a few paychecks to augmenting your kid’s fleet of toy trucks.
Ages: 5 – 8
A Year at a Construction Site by Nicholas Harris ($5)
No matter how obsessed with trucks your kid may be, be glad you’re not Nolan’s father. This kid actually went out and adopted a stray backhoe — apparently against the backhoe’s wishes. And, while the tale of how Nolan learns about the backhoe’s true home might sound like a hokey allegory about getting a pet, it’s actually kind of a genius idea. Think about it: a pet backhoe could pick up its own crap.
Ages: 4 – 8
Backhoe Joe by Lori Alexander ($13)
Building A House
A classic that’s been in print since 1981, this book makes the process of home building look so simple, there’s a half decent chance your kid will dig a foundation in your backyard before you get home from work. This will be adorable, but unfortunately the book makes running the home’s electrical wiring look just as simple, so maybe shut the circuit breaker off before leaving the morning after you read that part.
Ages: 2 – 6
Building A House by Byron Barton ($7)
Building With Dad
Photo-realistic illustrations: creepy and weird in The Polar Express, but weirdly fascinating in this story about a father and son checking out the former’s construction site. The book is illustrated to drive home the massive scale of both the machines and the construction itself, which is ultimately revealed to be … another school. Your kid can decide if this one is cooler than the one in A Year At A Construction Site
Ages: 3 – 7
Building with Dad by Carol Nevius ($8)