Dream Something Big
The Story of The Watts Towers

Age Level: 5 and up | Grade Level: K and up
The Story of the Watts Towers

An Italian immigrant’s dream to “do something big” began with something tiny—a single chip of tile that he found on the street. With only his innate engineering skills, that little chip became the first building block to an astonishing feat of architecture…and a national landmark!

Simon Rodia—known as “Uncle Sam” by the children in his melting pot neighborhood of Watts, California—was a visionary, a pioneer in the art of recycling, reusing and repurposing found objects. He dug through trash piles for things people no longer wanted or overlooked: broken teapots and plates. Shattered bottles and mirrors. Rocks and shells. On the backs of ice cream parlor chairs he saw hearts. In water spigots he saw flowers.

Young Marguerite tells the story of her neighbor, a man some said called crazy for spending 34 years of his life building towers from trash. However, Marguerite—and eventually her children—thought of him as a magician who, despite many challenges, was determined to transform a dream into reality. Uncle Sam couldn’t read. He was poor. He spoke in a mix of English and Italian difficult to understand. But he was clever, creative and relentless in his pursuit to build a group of glorious towers that rose to nearly 100 feet. People now call him a genius who created “a gigantic flower of folk art.” The towers are not only a landmark but also a top tourist attraction.

“He showed me and my children
The beauty of a broken angel,
A bowling ball,
A boot.
The usefulness of an airplane wing.
The patterns shells and rocks could make.
Uncle Sam was like a spider weaving his web…
His third tower was his last.
He wrote his initials and “Nuestro Pueblo” in cement—
“Our Town,” a village for the world.
A child once asked him why he had built the towers. “To make a pretty scenery, I think. And make that place famous.”

“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.” –**Kirkus** Starred review
“This stunningly illustrated picture book succeeds on every level.” – School Library Journal
“This book beautifully illuminates a little-known story of imagination and perseverance that resulted in a national landmark.”— **Publisher’s Weekly** Starred review
“…winding, poetic language evokes the strange beauty of the sculptures themselves…Children will find inspiration in Rodia’s personal, quiet call to creation.” – Booklist