"Philip Freelon, the architect of record for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., began life as a little boy who had trouble reading. His grandfather was a Harlem Renaissance painter, his parents were educated professionals, and his older siblings were able students, but Phil struggled. Before long, however, he discovered his love for math, science, and art, and while it took him a little longer to begin reading well, he eventually learned the joy of words, too. Lyons follows Phil from those early years through high school, where he learned he wanted to be an architect, and college at Hampton University (a historically black institution), where he learned about other black architects, to 2008, when Phil met with two other architects as they planned to enter a competition to design and build the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Freeman’s illustrations have an appropriately clean-lined look that complements the theme; her pages are populated by faces from black history as well as those of Phil and his family. Closing with an afterword by Freelon himself, this book will inspire children who have trouble reading, like Phil, and those who aspire to have careers as artists and architects.

Both an inspiration and an excellent companion for a trip to the museum its subject designed."


"Philip Freelon (1953–2019) was an artist, an architect, and a dreamer. This book begins with a peek into Freelon’s childhood. Lyons explores both his strengths and his struggles: his ability to excel at math and science as well as his challenge to learn to read. Lyons discusses her subject’s family, including mentions of his siblings, and his mother’s and his father’s occupations. His grandfather, who was a Harlem Renaissance artist, made a large impact on Freelon. He helped his grandson appreciate the small things in life. The narrative continues through Freelon’s high school experience, then follows his college career attending Hampton University and later North Carolina State. Lyons adds several references to the civil rights movement: Freelon watched Dr. King’s speech on TV and his father experienced segregation when traveling for business. An interesting page discusses Freelon’s research in discovering architects of other cultures and races, many of whom were not part of his higher education curriculum. The author highlights his masterwork as the architect of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Freelon was not as well known as architects Frank Lloyd Wright or Ludwig Mies van der Rohe but hopefully, with the exposure gained from biographies such as Lyons’s, his work and life story can inspire young readers to follow in his footsteps."