“Morbid. Enthralling. I’m in!” I thought as I added this book to my check-out pile at the library.
I’d opened it and seen the guillotine build while flipping through its pages. It also helped that I lived in Paris for 9 months as a college student and have many fond and less-fond memories of my time there.
I remember struggling through a take-home, closed-book exam that involved translating a passage from a romance novel, from English into French. When you work into your weaker language, you’re not as flexible with terminology. The instructor’s comments included, “Hahaha! This sounds clinical, not sexy.” Translating this kind of novel had been a job for her at some point.
I’ll have you know that she used one of my solutions—something about peeling skin from fruit for ripping off clothing–from that exam as a model for later students suffering through similar translation exercises.
I’m telling you this to distract you from the fact that I didn’t like this book, at least not for beginner brickfilmers, i.e. filmmakers creating LEGO stop motion animations.
Anyway, I took that exam in the library of the Centre Pompidou, which is recreated with LEGO bricks on Pages 80 and 81. It’s one of the many photos of buildings and other things associated with the City of Light, all built by LEGO artists.
The LEGO Part
“Brick City – Paris” is written by Warren Elsmore and published by Lonely Planet Kids. It’s part of a series that currently also includes London and New York. This isn’t an official LEGO book. Warren is oh so very impressive. His work tours museums and galleries while his commissions inform and entertain employees and customers of the businesses that hire him.
The interesting thing is that I found no online reviews for Brick City Paris or London. New York had a single review: the Spanish-language reviewer thought it was “cool and fun” while pointing out its hard cover would make it more durable. I agree.
Each book includes
- instructions for 20 unofficial LEGO projects that tie in with the corresponding city
- photos of tourist attractions recreated with LEGO, and
- the types of facts and stories you would expect to read in a travel guide.
For Paris, readers can build a croissant for the food culture, and cyclist for the Tour de France, and a chandelier for Versailles, among other things. There’s a separate section where these models are all laid out with their photos, names, and corresponding page numbers so you can find them without having to look at the table of contents. That’s a nice touch.
The guillotine was morbidly fascinating to me. I was also very surprised and excited to discover that I had all the parts I’d need to build it. All except the blade. My substitution is a bit more difficult to see.
The building instructions are clear and easy to follow. For me, personally, they were too small. I struggled with my middle-aged eyes and trifocals—uhm, I mean progressive lenses.
Most of the pieces look pretty common to me now, but as I beginner, I wouldn’t have had them. Even now, I don’t have enough to make the intriguing flying machine designed by Leonardo da Vinci that’s in the section on the Arts and Crafts Museum.
How likely is it that a reader will have 16 transparent headlight bricks. You might have all the pieces, but not in the right colors. You have to decide if you’re okay with mismatched colors or if you want to buy them especially for these builds.
To help you find those less common parts, the author has included a list of the “10 Most Useful Bricks” at the back of the book. There are also two building tips, including SNOTS (Studs Not On Top), which I wouldn’t have understood from the description here.
Next come two pages with a beautiful collection of parts to give you an idea of the colors available to you in the world of LEGO along with a note that you can buy individual bricks on BrickLink and BrickOwl as well as LEGO.com.
A nice bonus online would’ve been a sheet with all the parts you need for the book along with their part numbers for easier searching.
With the exception of the guillotine, the streetlight, and the coffee machine, the builds are not at a scale that would work with minifigures. So if I used them, it would have to be as giant sculptures or something of that nature. Maybe they could be blurred to add interest in the foreground or background.
The micro-scale build of the Sacré-Coeur could be used to represent buildings in the far distance.
The Travel Guide Part
This Brick City guide is written in a light, fun tone. The target age group is 9 to 12.
The book promises “fascinating facts and amazing stories,” and it does indeed provide fun, bite-sized information about Paris. For example, I didn’t know that children used popular toy guillotines to chop off the heads of dolls and live rats! I’m thinking this would’ve been in the 1790s in Paris. Yikes!
The other facts aren’t disturbing. Warren Elsmore describes the aspects of Paris from Middles Ages to the present, from cathedrals to the subway, from artists to the Eiffel Tower, cheese shops to desserts. Not to mention perfume and cafés, shopping and poodles.
After the guillotine section, I enjoyed the Moulin Rouge one the most. Three dancing ladies are recreated in LEGO bricks, and you learn that “can-can” means “scandal.”
This isn’t a practical guide in the sense that you won’t find information like addresses, websites, and hours of operation.
The Instagram video below was a Halloween video, but I made specifically to have an excuse to use the LEGO coffee maker build from the Brick City – Paris book!
“Brick City – Paris” is fun, an unexpected hybrid of travel guide and LEGO book with beautiful photos. If you use it as intended—imagine that!—it can be a good way to introduce a LEGO-loving child to the city of Paris, giving the kid a glimpse into French culture and history. The LEGO builds can enhance the experience or provide a distraction from the learning.
For a filmmaker working on a LEGO stop motion animation, this book is less helpful, especially in the beginning stages of one’s brickfilming obsess—I mean hobby. If you really want a guillotine, I’ve found a link for you with instructions by Zigmend on Imgur.