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Modern megaliths reach for the sky
Chicago is famous for many things: the Cubs, Bears & Bulls, hot dogs, the ice cream cone, the Ferris wheel, but strangely, not its skyscrapers. Oh, it has them all right, lots of them, with the John Hancock and Sears towers anchoring both ends of the downtown loop, but the truth is that Chicago is truly the second city when it comes to skylinesNew York City is the top dog, and is unlikely to give up that title anytime soon, since it is home to the Chrysler Building, the UN, the Empire State Building and the soon-to-be-built replacement for the World Trade Center. Yet, in fact, Chicago was the birthplace of the skyscraper, with the construction of the Home Insurance Building in 1885, which stood an amazing 11 stories tall! This is just the beginning of Lynn Curlee's delightful new book for young readers, Skyscraper, a richly illustrated and well researched look at the monumental megaliths of modern society.
While written for your average fifth-grader, the book will appeal to readers of all ages; it doesn't talk down to young readers, instead providing enough information in its brief span to qualify as a crash course on the history of tall buildings. You'll learn the difference between art and architecture, and discover when they are one and the same. From the jumping-off point of the first steel-framed structure, Curlee explains how that building, along with the simultaneous development of other technologies (elevators, electric lights and telephones) pushed architects and builders to reach ever higher.
As a veteran children's book author, with works on the Statue of Liberty, baseball parks, the Parthenon and many others to his credit, Curlee knows how to engage the never-ending curiosity of children. As an art historian, he is adept at explaining the various styles and schools of design for these increasingly massive buildings, and as an artist he is equally adept at illustrating them. Moreover, his illustrations qualify as fine art themselves, from a portrait of famous photographer Margaret Bourke-White to an iconic rendering of the Empire State Building taken from one of its famous elevator doors. You'll be tempted to take out pages and frame themjust don't let your kids catch you. Better yet, get a copy of Skyscraper for yourself.