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

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein
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Sep 12, 2010

bookshelves: to-read, teaching

Carol Hurst:

Many children's book authors and illustrators grappled with how and if to commemorate the tragedies of 9/11. Mordicai Gerstein chose a beautiful way to do it. His Caldecott Award winner gives us adventure, suspense, delight and, of course, sadness as he tells the story of Philippe Petit, a tightrope acrobat who did indeed walk between the World Trade Towers in 1974.

We first see the towers on the title page, still under construction. The finished towers stand on the first page with the statistics in the text below. We see our tower walker next, a street performer, gazing up at the towers in between doing the stunts that amaze the small crowds he gathers about him.

We don't learn his first name, Philippe, for several pages and we don't learn his full name until the last page, but we learn a bit more about him near the beginning -- how he once walked between the steeples of Notre Dame Cathedral in his home city of Paris. He knew walking between the World Trade Towers was illegal, and, of course, dangerous, but he began his plan to do it. He would disguise himself as a construction worker for the towers were still under construction. Step by step we learn how he and some friends brought the heavy wheel of cable to the roof and hid until night fall; how friends on the other tower tied a line to an arrow and shot it across. Then stronger cables were attached to that line and pulled over. Several times there were near disasters even before Philippe stepped out on the 5/8 inch cable in the predawn darkness.

The perspectives in the book add to the drama. In one you can see the curvature of the earth as the sun rises. The Statue of Liberty is a tiny dot in the harbor. Another brings just the foot of the small man as he steps out onto the cable. Fold out pages, both horizontal and vertical give added dimensions to the story.

Only the last pages hint of the tragedy "Now the towers are gone. But in memory, as if imprinted on the sky, the towers are still there."
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