The Man Who Walked Between The Towers
(k and up) Roaring Brook Press
Caldecott Award winner- 2004
Starred review in November issue of The School Library Journal
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 Center 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 440 pound 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 on panels builds to a riveting climax.
A small, framed close-up of Petit's foot on the wire yields to two three-page fold-outs 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 D.C Public Libraryclose