Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building

 
(i)

 

Inspiring tale of landmark's construction.

What parents need to know

Positive messages
Not applicable
Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Language
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that there's not much to be concerned about here, but some things may need explanation and context. This takes place during the Great Depression, and your kids may want to know why children are scavenging for firewood in the streets of New York.

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What's the story?

In the winter of the Great Depression, a boy scavenges for firewood on the streets of New York before school. He finds a big pile at a new construction site where the Empire State Building is about to be built.

Over the next year he watches and describes the process of building the giant skyscraper. In May he is one of the first people to ride the elevator up to the Observation Deck. Includes sources, an author's note about the project, and archival photographs on the endpapers.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

This is a fascinating, nonfiction book about the building of the Empire State Building, framed by a fictional story about a boy watching the process. His part, giving a few details of the Depression and including an out-of-work father, is told in an odd, second-person style that's distracting, but the framing device provides context and draws younger readers in.

Author Deborah Hopkinson tells the nonfiction part in clear prose that doesn't get in the way of the dramatic story, and gives plenty of facts without being overwhelming. But it's James Ransome's glowing oil paintings that make this slim volume soar. Pictures, large and small, from a variety of perspectives, culminate in a gorgeous two-page spread of the finished building at sunrise that gives a sense of the awe and majesty of the building, and the pride New Yorkers felt at their achievement in the depths of the Depression.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about skyscrapers. Why do people want to build something so big and difficult to construct? Why do they inspire us? Why would people want such a dangerous job?

Book details

Author:Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator:James Ransome
Genre:History
Book type:Non-Fiction
Publisher:Schwartz & Wade
Publication date:February 1, 2006
Number of pages:44
Publisher's recommended age(s):4 - 7
Read aloud:5
Read alone:7

This review of Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building was written by

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  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 10 year old Written byBlueJade July 16, 2009
 

Fine for New Yorkers

This is a well developed book. But its primary appeal will be to New Yorkers who want to understand how the Empire State Building was constructed. It may also fit into a historical unit about the time period. The illustrations are fine. Even up to fifth graders may find this book good because of its informative pictures and text. I just wish there were more books about people who live outside New York City.
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