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The Man Who Walked Between the Towers
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Kindergarten-Grade 6-As this story opens, French funambulist Philippe Petit is dancing across a tightrope tied between two trees to the delight of the passersby in Lower Manhattan. Gerstein places him in the middle of a balancing act, framed by the two unfinished World Trade Centre towers when the idea hits: "He looked not at the towers, but at the space between them and thought, what a wonderful place to stretch a rope-." On August 7, 1974, Petit and three friends, posing as construction workers, began their evening ascent from the elevators to the remaining stairs with a 200kg cable and equipment, prepared to carry out their clever but dangerous scheme to secure the wire. The pacing of the narrative is as masterful as the placement and quality of the oil-and-ink paintings. The interplay of a single sentence or view with a sequence of thoughts or panels builds to a riveting climax. A small, framed close-up of Petit's foot on the wire yields to two three-page foldouts of the walk. One captures his progress from above, the other from the perspective of a pedestrian. The vertiginous views paint the New York skyline in twinkling starlight and at breathtaking sunrise. Gerstein captures his subject's incredible determination, profound skill, and sheer joy. The final scene depicts transparent, cloud-filled skyscrapers, a man in their midst. With its graceful majesty and mythic overtones, this unique and uplifting book is at once a portrait of a larger-than-life individual and a memorial to the towers and the lives associated with them.
Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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About the Author

Mordicai Gerstein won a Caldecott Medal for The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, and he has had four books named New York Times Best Illustrated Books of the Year. Gerstein was born in Los Angeles in 1935. He remembers being inspired as a child by images of fine art, which his mother cut out of Life magazine, and by children's books from the library: "I looked at Rembrandt and Superman, Matisse and Bugs Bunny, and began to make my own pictures." He attended Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, and then got a job in an animated cartoon studio that sent him to New York, where he designed characters and thought up ideas for TV commercials. When a writer named Elizabeth Levy asked him to illustrate a humorous mystery story about two girls and a dog, his book career began, and soon he moved on to writing as well as illustrating. "I'm still surprised to be an author," he says. "I wonder what I'll write next?" Gerstein lives in Westhampton, Massachusetts.

Reviews

K-Gr 4-Mordicai Gerstein's 2004 Caldecott Medal winning book (Roaring Brook, 2003) expressively conveys the joy and skill of French trapeze artist Philippe Petit and his amazing 1974 tightrope walk between the two World Trade Center towers during their construction. The animated adaptation of the book, superbly narrated by actor Jake Gyllenhaal, captures the awe and whimsy of Petit's tale. Sound effects add to the atmosphere and wonder of the story. The text is constructed with a paucity of words that read like poetry. Gerstein's oil and ink paintings are breathtaking. This exciting, touching, and haunting tale is a testament to Petit's determination and a fine memorial to the towers.-B. Allison Gray, John Jermain Memorial Library, Sag Harbor, NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

This effectively spare, lyrical account chronicles Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between Manhattan's World Trade Center towers in 1974. Gerstein (What Charlie Heard) begins the book like a fairy tale, "Once there were two towers side by side. They were each a quarter of a mile high... The tallest buildings in New York City." The author casts the French aerialist and street performer as the hero: "A young man saw them rise into the sky.... He loved to walk and dance on a rope he tied between two trees." As the man makes his way across the rope from one tree to the other, the towers loom in the background. When Philippe gazes at the twin buildings, he looks "not at the towers but at the space between them.... What a wonderful place to stretch a rope; a wire on which to walk." Disguised as construction workers, he and a friend haul a 440-pound reel of cable and other materials onto the roof of the south tower. How Philippe and his pals hang the cable over the 140-feet distance is in itself a fascinating-and harrowing-story, charted in a series of vertical and horizontal ink and oil panels. An inventive foldout tracking Philippe's progress across the wire offers dizzying views of the city below; a turn of the page transforms readers' vantage point into a vertical view of the feat from street level. When police race to the top of one tower's roof, threatening arrest, Philippe moves back and forth between the towers ("As long as he stayed on the wire he was free"). Gerstein's dramatic paintings include some perspectives bound to take any reader's breath away. Truly affecting is the book's final painting of the imagined imprint of the towers, now existing "in memory"-linked by Philippe and his high wire. Ages 5-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"Gerstein's dramatic paintings include some perspectives bound to take any reader's breath away. Truly affecting." --Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) "Readers of all ages will return to this again and again for its history, adventure, humor, and breathtaking homage to extraordinary buildings and a remarkable man." --Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review) "With its graceful majesty and mythic overtones, this unique and uplifting book is at once a portrait of a larger-than-life individual and a memorial to the towers and the lives associated with them." --School Library Journal (Starred Review)

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