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Review of BUILDINGS IN DISGUISE by Joan Marie Arbogast

by Cay Geisler

Arbogast, Joan Marie. 2004. BUILDINGS IN DISGUISE: ARCHITECTURE THAT LOOKS LIKE ANIMALS, FOOD, AND OTHER THINGS. Honesdale, Penn.: Boyds Mills Press. ISBN 159078099X

Arbogast pays tribute to strange and exotic buildings along the American roadside in this captivating nonfiction title. Fabulous buildings in unusual shapes that are meant to grab your attention are called mimetic because they imitate other objects. Because these structures are not on main thoroughfares, chances are students will not have seen these whimsical structures. Extensive photographs with accompanying text produce a fascinating look at American architecture of a bygone era. The photographs are mostly color with some black and white. There are also charts that detail the specifications of the featured buildings. Students will gawk at these charming structures and delight in reading the behind-the-scenes narratives of how the buildings were designed and built.

The most detailed account is of Lucy, the Margate Elephant, who was designed to attract people to buy land along the Atlantic coast. Tourists may still climb the inside spiral staircase and climb out on her back. Lucy is the oldest functioning mimetic structure and can still be seen in Margate, New Jersey.

The overall design of the building is also enchanting--with endpapers that feature a map of the United States with a dot where each of the mimetic buildings is located. The well-organized book is broken down into chapters that highlight the various kinds of buildings built, as well as a bibliography and index. There is just enough text to explore the features of the buildings and put them in historical context, with the main focus on the charming photographs. Students and adults will be poring over the attractive pictures and trying to plan road trips to see their favorites.

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