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Roberto, The Insect Architect Hardcover – September, 2000

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

"Even when Roberto was little, he went against the grain. Like most termites, he melted over maple, and pined for pine. Oak was okay, too. But Roberto didn't eat his food. He played with it."

Young Roberto has a burning desire to become an architect. Even when the other termites mock his ambition, Roberto is never derailed from his dream. So, like so many career-minded youth, this mite with a mission sets off for the big, buggy city. Here, sadly, he is thwarted by his heroes, Hank Floyd Mite and Fleas Van Der Rohe. But this inspired insect decides not to wallow in his sorrows but to help out other bugs with even greater problems. Soon, a fantastic, eclectic housing development is in the works. The mysterious architect chooses to remain anonymous, but ultimately can't avoid the grateful adulation of the carpenter ants, ladybugs, and house flies he has helped.

Nina Laden's fantastic collages use old catalog and magazine images, blueprints, cork veneer, and lots more, to create buildings, cities, and buggy creatures the likes of which you've never seen. The Leaning Tower of Pisa tilts away from the Empire State Building, with Gaudi's quirky sculptural edifices looming nearby. Some of the hilarious wordplay may fly over the heads of non-architects, but the overall humorous effect--and the go-for-your-goals message--will not be lost on anyone. For more charming and artistic pun-ishment, try Laden's When Pigasso Met Mootisse. (Ages 6 to 11) --Emilie Coulter

From Publishers Weekly

This good-natured tale, whose striking collages incorporate wood products and city photographs, introduces a termite who "went against the grain.... Roberto didn't eat his food. He played with it." While other termites picnic on "wood chips" and shotgun shacks, Roberto yearns to build with boards. He also exhibits a philanthropic streak. His first project is a neighborhood for homeless bugs, including a fireproof stone dwelling for a ladybug whose first house, per the nursery rhyme, burned down. Laden (When Pigasso Met Mootisse) wittily imagines a termite with a social conscience, one who ensures that bedbugs have "their very own beds." She incorporates woodworking tools into her bug-themed spreads and creates furniture from carefully cropped pieces of cork and veneer. Ant-like Roberto hunches over a mahogany-brown drafting table, busily drawing blueprints for a milk-carton shelter and a conical hive with neat circular windows. Even if children don't get the gags about Hank Floyd Mite (seated at a Guggenheim-shaped desk with a sketch of Fallingwater) and Fleas Van Der Rohe, nonstop insect quips and humorous bug house illustrations keep this book buzzing along. Ages 2-6. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Grade Level: Preschool - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 400L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 40 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books; Library Binding edition (September 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811824659
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811824651
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 0.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,883 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nina Laden grew up in the New York City area. She now lives in an old farmhouse in Seattle, which she renovated with her husband. She is the author and illustrator of many books for children.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on August 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Nina Laden, Roberto the Insect Architect (Chronicle, 2000)

There's something to be said for reading childrens' picture books every now and again. Childrens' authors can't get away with as much as adult authors can; for one thing, they generally have less room in which to get away with it (unless they are J. K. Rowling or Clive Barker, the vanguards of the burgeoning "childrens' doorstop" movement); for another, kids have an innate crap detector adults seem to get rid of as they get older. Reading chidlrens' books is a good way of grounding yourself, if you've gotten stuck in a rut of overly wordy stuff.

Roberto the Insect Architect is a fun one. (And note that a number of Amazon reviews of it have been posted by adults who own the book for themselves rather than their kids.) It's your basic "be yourself" kind of book, and reminds me in many ways of Randall Jarrell's brilliant The Bat-Poet. It's shorter, of course, being for a younger audience, and the points that are made are closer to the surface, but Laden still keeps things in hand by letting the story tell the story and giving visual cues that will make the reader of the intended age work (for example, Roberto's dream and its realization, which bookend the narrative in pictures instead of words). Worth reading for all ages. ****
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Xeneri on September 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Insect architects! This is an inspired little story with theunlikely prospect of a termite who dreams of building with wood instead of eating it.... Roberto sets off for the big buggy city in search of his dream.
The story is encouraging, and the wordplay witty but it's the fantastically funky collages that win you over. Laden uses all sorts of images... to create unreal insect edifaces. You'll find yourself staring at the quirky seussian architecture and chuckling at all the in-jokes.
A treat for the eyes and very fun!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By peachyqueen27 on August 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
My husband just recently purchased this book. We both love it! I love the story line and how Roberto does not quite fit in with the other termites. He follows his dreams, and eventually, parent termites want their kids to be just like him! The illustrations in this book are also great!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Another in the impressive Chronicle series of children's books, Roberto, the Insect Architect is the latest invention of author/artist Nina Laden, the fascinating tale of a wee mite ("termite, that is"), who grows up wanting to build things out of wood, not just feast on it, going against the grain of family obligations. Roberto aspires to make a name for himself, much like those he so admires, Hank Floyd Mite and Fleas van der Rohe, but he is discouraged when his parents complain that Roberto he has "bitten off more than he can chew" this time. Against all odds, Roberto sets out for the big city, where he draws inspiration for his designs from all manner of creepy crawlers.

Unfortunately, Robert's heroes, Hank Floyd Mite and Fleas van der Rohe, have no time to spare for an unknown architect, but Roberto remains undaunted, believing in himself. Soon he has designed a unique variety of dwellings, works of art that are also functional: the ladybug gets a fireproof home to keep her children safe, the carpenter ant a workshop for his projects, an abode for the house fly, even a habitable dwelling for the roaches. With perseverance and an inventive spirit, Roberto the Architect proves that anything is possible when there is determination and talent. Roberto achieves his goals and the world is better for it, all in a spirit of community. This clever story of creativity and inspiration, teaches a valuable lesson about believing in our dreams. Luan Gaines/2005.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Suzette Morrow on February 20, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As an art teacher, I am always looking for ways to fire up the students before we begin our project. This book was a big hit with k-2nd grade students. We talk about what an Architect does and what a neighborhood is as well as different kinds of insects along the way through the story. The collage illustrations are big and clear for an entire class to see well. The media is also helpful to tie into for a class project of a collage too! After the story the children are so happy and excited. When I ask, "Would you like to be an architect too?" The children all exclaim, "YES!" Great job Nina! Please write more art related books!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alyssa Springer on October 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found out about this book from a fellow architect who was looking for architecture related children's books for her children. I enjoyed it so much that I purchased it for another architect friend's baby shower and will continue to purchase it for other architect friends in the future, as well as for my own children when the time comes. The story is very cute, the names are clever and the illustrations are fun. The perfect book for a future architect.
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Format: Hardcover
Most termites see wood as nothing more than fuel, sustence, or put more simply, food. (just don’t call it “Grub.” In the insect world, they often live within wood!) But Roberto looks at wood, and sees possibilities…

From an early age, Roberto used wood not to satisfy his culinary palete, but rather to excite his creative muse and used it the way Leonardo Da Vinci used marble in his early years as an artist. He evneutally set his sights to the big city to become an architect.

At first, everyone turned him away, seeing him as a liability who’d eat the profits (in the literal sense) rather than build with them. Roberto was the kind of hard sell risk as would be a mouse (or rat…) in cheese shop, a dog working for a butcher, and of course, a termite working with wood in the contrscution biz.

Along the way, Roberto encounters various friends and neighbors who are homless for one reason or another, and decides to do something about it.

With his self-taught knowledge of architecture, Roberto designs and builds the homes and businesses to get those bugs off the streets and a second chance at a better life, and in the spirit of a “Secret Santa” does so anomyously.

It doesn’t take long before the city at large is buzzing with inritgue wondering who this mystery master archetict is.

When it’s discovered that Roberto’s the bug they’re looking for, the reader (and those read) are shown not only the importance of hard work and never giving up, but also how not to let doubt from others blindside you from your dreams.

Nina Laden’s agular and wonderfully quirkly illustrations, matched with concise and engaging text that sprinkles in fun wordplay throughout complete each other well.
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