Christy's Reviews > The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein
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Feb 22, 09

bookshelves: intermediate-picture-book
Read in February, 2009

“Once there were two towers side by side.” This first sentence in The Man Who Walked between the Towers immediately elicits an emotional response for readers old enough to have witnessed the events of September 11, 2001. This brilliantly illustrated and written book relates a story about the World Trade Center towers that is uplifting, courageous and inspirational.
Mordicai Gerstein skillfully chronicles the adventure of Philippe Petit, a street performer, who walked on a tight rope between the Twin Towers in 1974. The text and illustrations combine perfectly and immerse readers into the dangerous and astonishing risk Philippe took that day. Two gorgeous foldout pages produce amazing views of Philippe from the ground looking up and from a bird looking down towards him. Gerstein’s ink and oil paintings create his Caldecott winning and deserving illustrations.
American themes are found throughout this book. A bald eagle soars across the cover. Philippe’s character parallels the American spirit in many ways. Gerstein describes Philippe as feeling “free” as long as he stayed on the wire. Philippe was alone and “not afraid.” Gerstein describes Philippe as brave, independent and free. He is a risk-taker who perseveres and seizes the moment. Since these traits are revered by Americans, I believe Gerstein intentionally portrays Philippe this way in order to honor the Americans who died in the towers.
Besides the Caldecott Medal (2004), The Man Who Walked Between the Towers also received the American Library Association Notable Book Award (ALAN), the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award (BGHBA) and the 2003 New York Times Best Illustrated (NYTBI) Award. Clearly, this piece of literature pays tribute to the American spirit and the memory of World Trade Center towers. Extraordinarily written and illustrated, The Man Who Walked between the Towers, allows readers of all ages to experience this wondrous and uplifting true event.
I believe this book can be used with students of all ages. Many younger children do not know about the tragic events that took place at the World Trade Center. These students can appreciate the book at face value. Older students can have rich discussions that go beyond Philippe Petit and include the subtle symbolism found throughout the book. I personally appreciate the book because it allows readers to remember something uplifting that took place at the World Trade Center and respectfully pays tribute to the lives lost on September 11, 2001.


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