Cathedral: The Story of Its Construction Critical Context - Essay

David Macaulay

Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

David Macaulay has chosen to share his extensive art background in books for young readers and has expanded his audience to include general readers. After Cathedral, which won national and international acclaim, similar titles followed: Pyramid (1975) and Castle also enthralled readers. No one before Macaulay had made knowledge about buildings, especially monumental buildings, intelligible to a younger audience. These books reach beyond an encyclopedia to convey information in an interesting format. His large pen-and-ink sketches, rendered in black and white, are detailed in design and pleasing in arrangement.

Cathedral received the distinguished German Jugendbuchpreis and The New York Times Best Illustrated Book of the Year and was named an American Library Association Notable Book. Macaulay’s books have been translated into many languages, and he has received many other awards, including a medal from the American Institute of Architects that reads “an outstanding illustrator and recorder of architectural accomplishments.”

In addition to the triad of books on the construction of internationally known edifices, Macaulay has created related books, including Mill (1983), about nineteenth century mills in New England, and Ship (1993), which describes the recovery of artifacts from a ship that sank more than five hundred years ago. The Way Things Work (1988) offers detailed drawings, this time in color, with humorous analogies. This offbeat sense of humor is also evident in Why the Chicken Crossed the Road (1987), Black and White (1990), and Shortcut (1995). These three books are more appropriate for a younger audience, although they are intended for all ages. It is with humor, extensive knowledge, and masterful artistic talent that David Macaulay enriches his readers.