Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building
by Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by James E. Ransome

by Lynn Curlee

Today, we have a double review. Consider it a two-for-one special. These books pair together so well, it would be silly to review them separately.

As a young boy trudges through the streets of downtown New York looking for scrap wood to heat the family home, he watches in amazement as one building is torn down to make way for another. This new building is not just any building; it will be the tallest building in the world. It's 1931 and the Despression is hitting America hard. Many are out of work. The future seems bleak. But enter John S. Raskob, a businessman with a dream to build the tallest building in the world. Slowly, steadily, his dream takes shape. Slowly the steel girders that give the building it's shape are riveted together. The young boy watches in amazement as workers scramble across the structure, open to the air and elements, as these 'sky boys' work quickly to complete the building in record time.

In 'Sky Boys:How They Build the Empire State Building', readers will marvel at the courage it took to build such an impressive building. The illustrations show the muscled arms of the workers and the distance they worked from the ground. Photos taken while the building was constructed are reproduced on the front and back inside covers. One can see that even though the Empire State Building is no longer the world's tallest, it was one of the most significant achievements of it's time.

While 'Sky Boys' does a nice job of giving a sense of how the Empire State Building was built, readers who'd like get into the nuts and bolts of skyscraper construction would do wise to check out 'Skyscraper' by Lynn Curlee. Here, the history of the skyscraper construction is covered as is the evolution of tower design. A number of past and current skyscrapers are included.

In 'Skyscraper' , author Lynn Curlee point out that the 'skyscraper is a uniquely American invention'. That invention has spread around the world as competition for 'tallest building in the world' continues. I wonder what the 'sky boys' of yesterday would think about today's towers?

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