Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Sky Boys: How they Built the Empire State Building

Sky Boys: How they Built the Empire State Building

Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator:   James Ransome 
Historical Fiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Random House, 2006   ISBN: 978-0375836107

Imagine you are a boy living in New York City in the 1930's. The country is in the grip of the Depression and you father has lost his job. As you walk the streets looking for firewood you discover that a building at thirty-fourth and fifth is being pulled down. You hear that there are plans to build a very tall building in the open lot, a building that will become the tallest building in the world. The plan is to build it in a very short period of time. Many doubt that it can be done.

Soon the work begins. Using hundreds of steel beams a metal frame is built and dozens of "sky boys" crawl across the beams high in the sky positioning and binding together the skeleton of the great building. There are so many different kinds of jobs going on at the same time. Teams of four work together to make sure that the frame is riveted together properly while water boys bring them cool water to drink and other men man the hoists that bring the steel beams up from the road.

Just one year and forty-five days later the Empire State Building is complete, "a beauty" on the New York skyline. Not only is it beautiful to look it, but it also offers up hope to thousands of families who worry about the future and who are not sure if their lives will ever get better.

Beautiful oil paintings capture the majesty of this great building as it grows up from the street until it is a huge tower that is a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of man. The simple and lyrical text is written from the point of view of a child who imagines what it might be like to work on the building; what it might feel like to be a part of such a grand and important adventure.