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Praise Flows For 'Fallingwater'

November 1, 2017
By Linda Comins - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer/News-Register

It took longer for the children's book, "Fallingwater: The Building of Frank Lloyd Wright's Masterpiece," to come to fruition than it did for the celebrated architect to design and build the magnificent house in western Pennsylvania.

But the lengthy process has paid dividends for co-authors Marc Harshman and Anna Egan Smucker. Their new book, recommended for children ages 7-10, has been named a Junior Library Guild selection and an Amazon nonfiction book of the month. He described the honors as "very satisfying designations."

Harshman, a Wheeling resident and West Virginia's poet laureate, and Smucker, a Weirton native who now lives in Bridgeport, W.Va., will sign copies of their book at the Wheeling Artisan Center, 1400 Main St., from 4-7 p.m. Friday, to kick off this year's Upper Ohio Valley Festival of Books. They will give presentations at the Ohio County Public Library at noon Dec. 5 and the Moundsville-Marshall County Public Library at 5:30 p.m. that day.

Article Photos

'Fallingwater' by Marc Harshman and Anna Egan Smucker, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

The co-authors also spoke at the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston yesterday. The book project is the first joint venture between the two recognized West Virginia authors.

Harshman said they began writing the book nearly 14 years ago and signed the contract nearly seven years ago. The 40-page book was published in October by Roaring Brook Press of New York.

This book opens with Pittsburgh department store magnate Edgar Kaufmann contacting the famous architect in 1934 with an idea for building a house at Kaufmann's property at Bear Run, near Ohiopyle, Pa. The authors guide readers through Wright's process designing Fallingwater, from his initial inspirations to the home's breathtaking culmination.

Regarding the genesis of their endeavor, Harshman said, "The book came about because of our mutual fascination and fondness for the house, both of having visited it multiple times over the years and carrying away from those visits fond memories and respect for Wright's genius as an architect."

The history-based subject represented a creative departure for Harshman, whose previous picture books for children have been imaginative, fictional tales. However, he pointed out, "Anna (Smucker) has written nonfiction for younger readers before so it wasn't a departure for her. I simply followed her lead as we researched the book, both of us reading many books about Wright and his architecture, as well as other texts devoted to a study of the house itself."

They created the text in a collaborative fashion. Harshman explained, "Actually, we simply tossed the book back and forth many, many times. Although I was reassured to have as my partner in this project someone as well versed as Anna in writing nonfiction, I'd say we were pretty equal partners in both the poetic bits, as well as the more standard prose narratives."

"Fallingwater" features art by LeUyen Pham, a San Francisco artist who has illustrated numerous picture books. As is customary, the writers had no interaction with the illustrator during the creative process.

Harshman commented, "However, we knew Uyen's work already as one of the finest illustrators in America, so we were thrilled she got tapped for this book. Our expectations were more than met - we think they're truly outstanding illustrations as many reviewers have already noted."

The newly released book is receiving enthusiastic praise from critics. Publishers Weekly called the picture book "a warm tribute to the creative genius and style of architect Frank Lloyd Wright."

A reviewer for Booklist stated, "This beautifully rendered picture book is a testimonial to the creative genius of Frank Lloyd Wright and his Fallingwater, an amazing structure built directly over a waterfall. Readers are pulled in immediately by the traditional 'Once upon a time' opening, and the story is told in present tense as Wright takes months dreaming, imagining and finally realizing his daring, unique project."

The Booklist review continued: "The text effortlessly provides insights into Wright's thinking, his choice of materials, and how his final results reflect their counterparts in nature. Like Fallingwater, a home that breathtakingly blends innovative architecture and its natural surroundings, this book seamlessly blends together a good story, lyrical language and deft, supporting artwork. This affectionate tribute should appeal to a very wide audience."

In addition, the Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books deemed the volume a "recommended" read. Its review stated, "Harshman and Smucker's lyrical text conveys the dreaming and imagination that impelled what became possibly Wright's best-known project, while Pham's watercolors, filled with brightness and clarity of water and earth, suggest the soaring delicacy of the cantilevered elements as they emerge from a busy construction site."

Harshman's latest collection of poems, "Believe What You Can," and his 13th children's book, "One Big Family," were both published this year. Smucker is the author of several children's books.



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