Monday, July 12, 2010

2004 Caldecott Medal

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

by Mordicai Gerstein

The horrible events of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 have been commemorated in many, different ways. One such remembrance is the children’s book by Mordicai Gerstein entitled, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. Gerstein’s tale does not feature the eventual demise of the World Trade Center towers; rather, his story honors a time when one man chose to walk a tightrope stretched between the two grand buildings.

The book tells the story of young Frenchman, Philippe Petit. He is an acrobat who, with some help from his friends, planned and executed a tightrope walk on a wire strung approximately 1,340 feet in the air between the two towers of the World Trade Center. What an amazing (and definitely crazy) feat!

For me this book was extremely interesting. I had not previously read the story and was not aware of Philippe Petit’s “le coup” (as he referred to it). After reading the book, I did some research and found additional information regarding Petit’s life and his story. In 2008, a documentary was made, Man on Wire, which chronicles Petit’s walk high above Manhattan.

Though the book’s text is strong, Gerstein’s amazing illustrations alone could tell the story. The drawings make the reader feel as if he/she is actually high in the sky! Reading the book reminded me of man’s ability to build such magnificent structures, of the inspiring courage of one man, and of mankind’s capacity to inflict chaos and horror on others.

For me and most Americans, reminders of the twin towers and the fact that they no longer exist is usually laden with emotion. However, Gerstein’s book reminds his readers of another morning at the twin towers; a morning filled not with pain and sorrow, but with joy and triumph.

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