Monday, January 28, 2008

Sky Boys -- Sky Dancers

Anyone who has visited the Empire State Building at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City knows that it provides a very dramatic experience even though it is no longer the tallest building in the world. The view from the observation deck is superb -- north to Central Park (a remarkable use of public space in a dense urban area) and south to Manhattan's lower tip and the Statue of Liberty, east to the Brooklyn Bridge and west to New Jersey where our little granddaughter lives, at the other end of the Lincoln Tunnel.

During recent library classes with third grade, now studying structures, I read two historically-informed picture books about building the Empire State Building. In Sky Boys, written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by James E. Ransome, a young boy and his father see the tower emerge over a number of months in 1931, watching the daring and determined workers bring their skill and energy to the project. Sky Dancers, written by Connie Ann Kirk and illustrated by Christy Hale, introduces readers to the long tradition of Mohawk Indians in the steelworking industry; John Cloud's father travels from upstate New York to Manhattan each week to work high on the growing lattice of steel beams. Aided by authors' notes, the goal of highlighting varied perspectives on a given experience came into focus; and listeners held their breath thinking about the actual feat of people building an enormous skyscraper.