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Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building    by Deborah Hopkinson & James E. Ransome order for
Sky Boys
by Deborah Hopkinson
Order:  USA  Can
Schwartz & Wade, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

In celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Empire State Building, Deborah Hopkinson & James E. Ransome have created this magnificent, oversized book Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building.

It displays marvelous sketched, deep-colored illustrations. The book jacket shows a worker being hoisted by a crane lift high-above Manhattan, while he views the panorama of New York City. Equally splendid is the back cover's rendition of the towering Empire State Building, embraced by a high blue sky, highlighted with orange and purple clouds. Alongside the latter is part of the authors' commemoration, 'Six hundred men are working there - / making something new, / bold, / soaring. / A symbol of hope / in the darkest of time. / A building, clean and simple and straight as a pencil. / And tall, / so tall it will scrape the sky.'

Yes, there it is as you approach the corner of Thirty-Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue. The timeframe is the early 1930s. You can wave to the workers, who sit on girders eating 'lunch in the clouds', as water boys with buckets climb higher than they have ever climbed before. Construction equipment surrounds the area, as cranes lift 8,000 pounds at a time of steel from the fiery furnaces of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to reach a height of 1,250 feet. Later the '204-foot-tall television antenna erected in 1950' is added. The authors have included black and white original photographs of workers welding, pulling ropes, installing bolts as they walk, stand, and sit astride the girders, advising new workers, 'don't look down'.

The story inside is rendered with a feel of the Depression era. Unemployment is high and families make do with basic needs. A boy pulls his cart in search of wood to bring home for heat. The youngster sees a pile of wood pieces, looks up at the workers, and rushes home to bring his dad to the site, telling him, 'Mr. John J. Raskob a NY businessman wants to build the tallest skyscraper in the world ... they say it'll be done by next May. Think they can build it that fast, Pop?' The mast is placed on top, completing the project at '5:42 p.m. March 18, 1931', as New Yorkers line up to visit the observation deck.

I highly recommend Sky Boys to all readers, but especially to skyscraper enthusiasts and history buffs. It's a memorable and grand work of art in honor of the Empire State Building, its designers and creators.

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