Sky Boys, How They Built the Empire State Building

  • Sky Boys, How They Built the Empire State Building

February 28, 2006
Schwartz & Wade
Grades K-4
Boston Globe Horn Book Honor Award
ALA Notable

The acclaimed team that brought readers the IRA Children's Book Award-winning Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt is back with 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.

Featured Lesson Plan
Below is a link to an Economics Lesson featuring Sky Boys developed by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis:



  • Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards Honor - Picture Book
  • 2007 ALA Notable Books for Children
  • CCBC Choices 2007 by the Cooperative Children's Book center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • 2007-2008 Kentucky Bluegrass Award Master List (K-2 category)
  • Diamond State Reading Association 2007-2008 Booklist
  • One of 30 preliminary titles on the Show Me Readers Award Program list
  • 2007-08 Pennsylvania Keystone to Reading Book Award Master List, Primary Category
  • Named to the 2008-2009 Arkansas Diamond Primary Book Award Master List, nominee for upcoming award

State Awards:

Illinois Bluestern Award 2010-11
Arkansas 2008-09
Delaware Diamonds 2007-08
kentucky 2007-08


Kirkus Reviews, Starred

From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 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. Ransomes 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.-Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
Gr. 2-4, younger for reading aloud. 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. A unique, memorable title, this will enhance poetry and history units and combine well with Susan Goodman's excellent Skyscraper and Connie Ann Kirk's Sky Dancer (both 2004).Gillian Engberg Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved