The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid (Book Review)

The World Is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter

The World Is Not a Rectangle

A young girl in Baghdad, Iraq, saw the wild beauty of the rivers and marshes and dunes and ancient ruins in her country and dreamed of designing wild and beautiful cities of her own. This is her story.

Her name was Zaha Hadid. But as a Muslim woman, Hadid faced many obstacles.  Determined to succeed, she worked hard for many years. After studying architecture in London, she opened her own studio and started designing buildings. She became one of the most irreverent, controversial, and celebrated architects, and now you can see the buildings Hadid has designed all over the world.

Sources: Book flap and publisher (

My Reaction:

From the get go, I found myself rooting for Zaha Hadid and hoped she would achieve her dreams in the face of adversity and discrimination. The biography is full of examples of Hadid’s bravery and conviction to follow her dreams in the face of doubters who discouraged her because she was a woman, an Arab, a designer with unique ideas. This picture book goes far beyond a basic “these-are-cool-buildings” or “here-are-facts-about-a-person” book.

Jeanette Winter has a talent for finding out and writing about amazing people. Her stories are always well-written, and her illustrations are engaging, but she never ceases to impress me with the presentation of the most interesting subjects. Winters does it again with this portrait of Zaha Hadid. I found this book to be inspiring, and now I want to travel to the different locales throughout the world to see Hadid’s amazing architectural designs.

Possible Discussion Questions:

  1. Why is the title, The World Is Not a Rectangle, a good one for this book about Zaha Hadid?
  2. Why do you think Zaha designed buildings in the style she used?
  3. What fact(s) did you learn about Zaha Hadid that you found interesting?
  4. What big message(s) do you think Winters wants readers to understand after reading this book? Think of ideas bigger than the facts about Zaha Hadid.

Curriculum Connections:

  • Social Studies (world geography)
  • Life Skills (follow your dreams, tolerance)
  • Character Development (persistence, determination, grit)
  • Science (nature, architecture)
  • Art (architectural design, nature as inspiration, artists’ office work)
  • Writing (biography)

Who Should Read This?

  • Teachers in elementary and middle school classrooms
  • Art and design teachers
  • Teachers and parents who are trying to illustrate the concepts of determination, courage, and persistence
  • Fans of amazing art, cool architecture, and strong women

Other Books You Might Want to Read:

Image result for she persisted



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