Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building

Overview

The unbeatable team of Deborah Hopkinson and James E. Ransome present a riveting brick-by-brick account of how one of the most amazing accomplishments in American architecture came to be. Join a young boy as he watches the Empire State Building being constructed from scratch, then travels to the top to look down on all of New York City in 1931. Hopkinson, a master of historical fiction, and Ransome, an award-winning illustrator, dazzle us with this ALA Notable and a Boston ...

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Overview

The unbeatable team of Deborah Hopkinson and James E. Ransome present a riveting brick-by-brick account of how one of the most amazing accomplishments in American architecture came to be. Join a young boy as he watches the Empire State Building being constructed from scratch, then travels to the top to look down on all of New York City in 1931. Hopkinson, a master of historical fiction, and Ransome, an award-winning illustrator, dazzle us with this ALA Notable and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book.

In 1931, a boy and his father watch as the world's tallest building, the Empire State Building, is constructed, step-by-step, near their Manhattan home.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A second-person narrative voice places readers at the construction site of (at that time) the world's tallest skyscraper. From the first line, "It's the end of winter,/ and your pop's lost his job," the grim realities of the Depression form the story's backdrop. Opening spreads show a boy collecting firewood from "that old hotel/ they tore down at/ Thirty-fourth and Fifth." Hopkinson (Fannie in the Kitchen) infuses an emotional charge in her dramatization of the building's erection ("a symbol of hope/ in the darkest of times"), while also folding technical details into lyrical prose: "First come rumbling flatbed trucks,/ bundles of steel on their backs,/ like a gleaming, endless river/ surging through/ the concrete canyons of Manhattan." Ransome's oil paintings, in hues of blue, gray and russet brown, capture the scale and increasing elevation at which the "sky boys" worked. Framed against white clouds, men stand precariously on steel scaffolding. One spread, divided into vertical quarters, shows the building's progress in June, July, August and November; the next, a climactic vertical spread, boldly labeled "5:42 pm March 18, 1931," depicts workers stationed on the pinnacle mast, an American flag billowing behind them. Photographs of the site's actual construction decorate the endpapers, and an endnote offers even more details. The subplot about the father and son (who tour the completed building at the book's close) seems tacked on, but the drama of the building's rise makes for a literally riveting account. Ages 4-9. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
This interesting picture book tells the story of the building of the Empire State Building in New York through free verse. While poetry and rhyme is not unusual in picture books, in this one, it creates a different feel as it shifts from 3rd person (omniscient) to 2nd person focus (through the eyes of a young boy). The illustrations use vivid color with blurred details to create a sense of the immensity of the building, from its incarnation to its completion. The focus on the "Sky Boys," those men who actually walked around on the girders, provides the tension and the adventure of the story, but the author nicely balances this with the more challenging issue of out-of-work men who were willing to put their lives on the line--literally--to get a job. A final "Note about the Story" provides additional details that avid readers will certainly want to know after reading this book. This picture book is a definite winner. 2006, Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House, Ages 5 to 10.
—Jean Boreen, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-Hopkinson and Ransome chronicle the construction of this famous building through the eyes of a young boy. The present-tense text gives the book a true "You are there" feel as the author describes both the actual building process and its significance as a symbol of hope during the Depression era. The pacing is never rushed, but at the same time it moves along at an energetic clip that matches the speed that characterized the construction of this National Historic Landmark. Ransome's stunning oil paintings vary in perspective as readers look up at what was once the tallest building in the world, and then down from dizzying heights as workers perch on girders on the 47th floor, feeding pigeons while taking a break for beef stew and coffee. An author's note reflects the painstaking and careful research done by both author and illustrator to ensure as authentic a presentation as possible. This is a fascinating look at a slice of American history and a worthwhile addition to any collection.-Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
Kirkus Reviews starred review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375836107
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 2/28/2006
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 344,769
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 11.82 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

DEBORAH HOPKINSON is the author of Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building, an ALA Notable Book and a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, and Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek, illustrated by John Hendrix, an ALA Notable Book and a Junior Library Guild Selection. Her most recent book is A Boy Called Dickens. Her many other acclaimed titles include ALA Notable Apples to Oregon, Under the Quilt of Night, and Fannie in the Kitchen.

JAMES E. RANSOME is the illustrator of many titles, including Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George; Young Pelé: Soccer's First Star, a finalist for the NAACP Image Awards; Satchel Paige; and Major Taylor: Champion Cyclist. He is also the illustrator of Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building by Deborah Hopkinson, a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award and an ALA Notable Book; Creation, which won a Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration; and Let My People Go by Patricia C. McKissack, winner of an NAACP Image Award. Visit him at JamesRansome.com

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