5.11.2011

Steel City: Sky Dancers

Sky DancersA number of city based books try to work something "educational" or historical into their story lines. These books are often easily identifiable by the "Author's Note" at the end. Some are more successful than others. Connie Ann Kirk and Christy Hale's Sky Dancers falls somewhere in the middle.

While John Cloud climbs trees and helps with the building work back home, his father and uncle work as steelworkers on the Empire State Building. One day, his mother and grandfather take John Cloud into the city so he can see his father at work high above the city. Proud of his father, the boy returns to his home to practice his own climbing skills.

Skyscrapers are a rather romantic city theme for a book, offering ample opportunity for vertigo-inducing illustrations, especially the one in which steelworkers go about their business without any safety harnesses. Kirk's text wanders a little bit, probably because also tries to include several other common city themes such as visiting the noisy, busy city for the first time, the contrast between city and country, as well as creating a story of parental affection and cultural identity.

The author's note explains the role of the Mohawks as steelworkers and elaborates on some of their contributions to the building of New York City, including their role in the 9/11 recovery efforts. I had no idea about the Mohawk tradition of steel working in North America, and found this to be very interesting and led me to search out some great resources to learn more about this part of New York City history (see below in "Want More?")

Want More?
Watch online High Steel, a short, very interesting 1965 Canadian documentary about the Mohawk skyscraper workers in NYC. But, OMG, WHERE ARE THE SAFETY HARNESSES? And smoking on the job? Maybe not such a good idea.
Read an interesting article about the Brooklyn Mohawk iron workers at the Brooklyn Public Library Brooklynology website.
The Smithsonian Institution had a travelling exhibition about the Mohawk iron workers. You can view some of the images here.

Big Kid says: That is high.
Mom replies: No kidding.

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