Deborah Hopkinson

Award Winning Author of Fiction & Nonfiction for Children & Teens

Sky Boys

How They Built the Empire State Building

Sky Boys

What is this book about?

A riv­et­ing brick-by-brick account of how one of the most amaz­ing accom­plish­ments in Amer­i­can archi­tec­ture came to be. It’s 1930 and times are tough for Pop and his son. But look! On the cor­ner of 34th Street and 5th Avenue, a build­ing straight and sim­ple as a pen­cil is being built in record time. Hun­dreds of men are lev­el­ing, shov­el­ing, haul­ing. They’re hoist­ing 60,000 tons of steal, stack­ing 10 mil­lion bricks, eat­ing lunch in the clouds. And when they cut rib­bon and the crowds rush in, the boy and his father will be among the first to zoom up to the top of the tallest build­ing in the world and see all of Man­hat­tan spread at their feet.

  • Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards Hon­or — Pic­ture Book
  • ALA Notable Books for Chil­dren 2007
  • Arkansas Dia­mond Pri­ma­ry Book Award Mas­ter List nom­i­nee, 2008-09
  • Coop­er­a­tive Chil­dren’s Book Cen­ter Choic­es 2007, Uni­ver­si­ty of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Delaware Dia­mond State Read­ing Asso­ci­a­tion 2007–2008
  • Illi­nois Bluestem Award 2010-11
  • Ken­tucky Blue­grass Award Mas­ter List (K‑2 cat­e­go­ry) 2007–2008
  • Penn­syl­va­nia Key­stone to Read­ing Book Award Mas­ter List, Pri­ma­ry Cat­e­go­ry 2007-08
  • Show Me Read­ers Award Pro­gram pre­lim­i­nary list



“Crisp, lyri­cal free verse and bold paint­ings cel­e­brate the skill and dar­ing of those who con­struct­ed the Empire State Build­ing. Dur­ing the Great Depres­sion, a young boy learns about plans for the build­ing. As the tow­er ris­es, the boy vis­its the site with his unem­ployed father and sees in the emerg­ing sky­scraper “a sym­bol of hope / in the dark­est of times.” The sec­ond-per­son voice occa­sion­al­ly feels like a clum­sy reach for con­nec­tion with the audi­ence: “It’s the end of win­ter, / and your pop’s lost his job.” But Hop­kin­son makes the con­struc­tion details thrilling in skill­ful­ly inte­grat­ed lines, filled with sta­tis­tics: “This steel is strong and new / only eighty hours old.” Ran­some’s pow­er­ful acrylic paint­ings show the build­ing in all stages of con­struc­tion, and includes the work­ers’ per­ilous views. ” (Book­list)

“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 authors 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.” (School Library Jour­nal)

Sky Boys

author, Deb­o­rah Hop­kin­son
illus­tra­tor, James E. Ran­some
Schwartz & Wade
Pen­guin Ran­dom House
ages 3 to 7, 2006
ISBN 978–0375865411

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