The Empire State Building leaves New York and takes a trip around the world, meeting other landmark buildings and spreading unity in the first two volumes of a quirky picture-book series.
It may have “Man-Made” in its title, but no human beings or other organic creatures appear in this two-part picture book, in which the only “living” things are buildings, machines, and other structures—including Empire, “the mightiest of the skyscrapers,” who “misses his Twin Brothers” (the unnamed World Trade Center) and wishes for peace in the world. Lady Liberty leaves her harbor to give Empire a pair of legs with a touch of her magic torch, and off he goes, crossing land and sea to form bonds with the world’s famous buildings and statuary. While the reference to “Twin Brothers” leaves it to parents to explain 9/11 (or not), the author executes his premise with a warmth that belies the book’s angular, architectural characters. He gives the story a dash of suspense (Empire is saved from drowning by the Queen Mary ocean liner after a lightning strike) and defines each structure with a simple personality reflecting it and its location in ways both obvious and unexpected. Empire receives advice from London’s “Big Benjamin,” dances with “Mademoiselle Eyefull,” plays chess (to a stalemate) with “President Kremlin,” and “sings a song of peace” with the Egyptian pyramids. Among other stops along the way, Empire is “enlightened” by statues at a Buddha convention. The first book ends with Empire’s nap on a “starlit beach” and continues in the second book as Empire wakes up to find he has company: the Great Wall of China, personified here as a smiling serpent. Empire returns home to finds a new friend—Freedom the Skyscraper—flanked by the spirits of his Twin Brothers, and all the skylines of the world join together in harmony. The book is illustrated with computer-generated images—colorful backgrounds, buildings with simplistic cartoon facial features—that are framed top and bottom by black borders; its white text is readable against the inky black pages.
A two-part picture-book adventure told with serviceable illustrations, light humor, a gentle remembrance of a national tragedy, and a message of universal healing.