Teaching History with Children's Literature: Joe and the Skyscraper


Joe and the Skyscraper is the story of a little boy named, Joe Carbonelli, who guides the reader around the New York City and through different eras.  The character Joe focuses on the construction of the Empire State Building in New York.  Joe gave in-depth details about the construction process of the Empire State Building.  "The rivet was then pressed firmly from both sides with a pneumatic hammer (12)."  The book goes through several significant events that take place during the construction process.  Readers will also learn about the fascination that America had with skyscrapers during this moment in history.  The book mentions that men of different ages, ethnicity, and races worked on the gigantic structure.  At the end of the book, the last two pages compare the most famous structures around the world.  This gives the reader a visual of the size of the Empire State Building and other structures in the United States compared to those in other countries.

Dietrich Neumann does a great comparing the different shapes, sizes, and cultures that go into all of the architecture in New York City.  He uses photos of different landmarks throughout the city and a witty character named Joe to grab the attention of the reader.  The book goes from landmarks built in the early 1900s to more modern buildings in New York City. The history in this book really analyzes the culture behind the architecture.

Curriculum Connections
The student will learn about the history of architecture in New York City.  The students will be able to discuss the different tactics and significant instruments used to create a significant structure.  This book correlates directly with History SOLs 2.3.

Additional Activities

  • Try spelling with the Empire State Building and your students.
  • Try playing Jenga with your students and make the tower as tall as possible.

Book: Joe and the Skyscraper
Author/Illustrator: Dietrich Neumann
Publisher: Prestel Publishing
Publication Date: 1999
Pages: 28 pages
Grades: 3-5
ISBN: 379132103

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