Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon


6-12 years

  • Historical Figures
  • STEM
  • Architecture
  • Black Culture & Identity

Kelly Starling Lyons & Laura Freeman


Philip Freelon was born into a proud and artistic Black family, with connections to the Harlem Renaissance and protest marches. Philip’s other family members followed their artistic visions, and Philip’s grandfather (a painter) helped Philip develop his. Choosing to focus on places that brought people together, Phil became an architect.

Over decades, Phil designed brilliant buildings, culminating in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The book makes a point to include that Phil sought out Black architects and teach himself, something that is still very much done today due to the prevalence of lackluster historical education in anything other than Eurocentric heroism.

I really love that Phil himself writes a note in the back to give more context about his life, as well as some photos! Author Kelly Starling Lyons also give an extensive author’s note about the impact Phil’s work has on her personally, and the Black community. I myself don’t know much about architecture in general, and I really enjoyed reading this book about such a prolific architect. The story covers Phil’s life well, focusing on growing up and his education. Like other biographies, this book shares crucial information about Black excellence, historic events as interpreted by a young person, and teaches about an influential figure that I definitely should have learned about before I was in my thirties.

This book was kindly sent by Lee and Low, and was a contender for the #bookstagang_bestof2020 list. However, all opinions are my own!

Kelly Starling Lyons

Kelly Starling Lyons began her journey to become a children’s book author in her hometown of Pittsburgh. She learned the art of storytelling from her mom who took her to productions at a children’s theater, wrote plays and made up bedtime tales. Her grandparents, who showed their imagination through cooking and gardening, taught her to honor the magic of history and home. Surrounded by creativity, Lyons began to write. Now a children’s book author, her mission is to transform moments, memories and history into stories of discovery.

Laura Freeman

Laura is originally from New York City, but now lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children. Laura received a BFA from the School of Visual Arts and began her career working for various editorial clients. Laura has illustrated over thirty children’s books, including Hidden Figures written by Margot Lee Shetterly, the Nikki & Deja series by Karen English and Fancy Party Gowns by Deborah Blumenthal. In addition to illustrating books and editorial content, her art can be found on a wide range of products, from dishes and textiles to greeting cards.

Leave a Reply