Dream Something Big
The Story of the Watts Towers

(2011) Dial Books for Young Readers
by Dianna Hutts Aston
collages by Susan L. Roth

"Aston pays tribute to the creative genius of an Italian immigrant and tile worker who, in the 1920s, begins a unique project on his Watts, Calif., property that takes 34 years to complete. Simon Rodia uses only rebar, cement, broken tiles, shells, and other found items to build towering spires, some almost a hundred feet tall, decorated with mosaic designs. A fictional neighbor girl, Marguerite, provides lyrical first-person narration as she watches the towers take shape throughout her childhood. The subject lends itself perfectly to the collage illustrations. Employing mostly paper, but also bits of pottery, cloth, clay and string, Roth stunningly recreates bold, stylized versions of the towers. This book beautifully illuminates a little-known story of imagination and perseverance that resulted in a national landmark. Ages 5–8."
- starred review, Publishers Weekly

"Using his hands, simple tools and found pieces of glass, tile and steel, a reclusive Italian immigrant assembled and built the extraordinary Watts Towers in southern California.

A little girl from the neighborhood tells the story as she watches Uncle Sam, as she calls Simon Rodia, collect chips of tile and make mortar from his secret mixture of sand, cement and water. The work, done in evenings and on weekends, spans more than three decades. That little girl grows up and brings her own children to watch in wonder as the towers soar skyward. Her trusting voice and observant eye make her an endearing narrator. “Uncle Sam was like a spider weaving his web / of steel and cement and lacy shadows.” Aston’s telling is lyrical and reads aloud beautifully. Roth, working in her signature mixed-media collage, is the perfect choice to illustrate the building process. Bits and pieces of photographs, paper and fabric arranged in colorful panels and full-page spreads dazzle the eye. Step-by-step instructions and photographs for constructing a tower from pipe-cleaners provide an excellent follow-up activity.

It was one man’s dream to recreate beautiful buildings remembered from his childhood in Italy as a gift to the community. That dream became a National Landmark for all to treasure, and this book brings it to children everywhere."
-Kirkus Reviews