Curve & Flow: The Elegant Vision of L.A. Architect Paul R. Williams

Written by Andrea J. Loney, Illustrated by Keith Mallett

Paul R. Williams always loved to draw and was encouraged as a child to develop his skill, even after he was orphaned. He loved the wide-open spaces of early 1900s Los Angeles, seeing how the mountains flowed down into the Pacific Ocean. This view of nature would greatly influence his “curve and flow” style in the years to come. By the time he graduated from high school, he already had a portfolio and was off to study architecture at USC. Throughout his career, Williams defied the odds and racist attitudes to become a world-renowned architectect and the first black man west of the Mississippi to be liscensed to practice architecture. He made a name for himself by designing homes for some of Hollywood’s biggest celebrities, including Frank Sinatra and Lucile Ball. He also had a hand in many L.A. landmarks, like the Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hollywood Masonic Temple. One skill that Williams used time and again was the ability to sketch upside down and backward, so that clients could see their dream homes come to life before their eyes. He did this to put nervous, white clients at ease. After many years of working in segregated neighborhoods, Williams finally built his own dream home for his wife and family in a beautiful area of L.A.

This is an excellent book about overcoming racism, finding what you’re are good at, developing skills, and working hard. The illustrations are really colorful and give a great feel for what early L.A. looked like. I liked how the illustrator put a number of Williams’ black and white drawings in at every stage of his career. There’s also a depiction of Williams confronting racism as if it’s a big, stone wall that he can survey and plan to solve, like any other challenge. It’s a great visual metaphor. This would make an excellent book for discussion during Black History Month. I’m looking forward to telling my students his story!

Reviewed by Andrea LeBaron, Librarian, Upland Terrace Elementary
Review shared in January 2023
Rating: ★★★★★ (5 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 2-6

Curve & Flow: The Elegant Vision of L.A. Architect Paul R. Williams
Written by Andrea J. Loney, Illustrated by Keith Mallett
Alfred A. Knopf
48 pages
Release Date: September 27, 2022
ISBN: 9780593429075
A review copy was provided by the publisher.

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