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Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
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.