Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Man Who Walked Between Two Towers (Genre 1 Picture Books)

Gerstein, Mordicai. 2003. The Man Who Walked Between Two Towers. Brookfield, CT: Roaring Book Press. ISBN 0-7613-1791-0.
Plot Summary
The book tells the story of a tightrope walker named Philippe [Petit]. It tells of several of his accomplishments but focuses on his famous walk between the World Trade Center Towers before their completion. The long and difficult journey to and set up at the top is described as well as Philippe's long-awaited trip across the wire and his subsequent dealings with law enforcement.
Critical Analysis
The author's choice of words were often simple but somehow poetic and profound. The reader is able to get a sense of why Philippe would do such a dangerous thing - the frustrations, ponderings, and exilerations felt throughout the daring feat. Then five simple words, "Now the Towers are gone,' from which flow very complex emotions. The text is quite compelling.

The illustrations support the text by providing a pictoral representation of Philippe's point of view sometimes and other times providing a glimpse into the overall picture. The arrangement of the illustrations also provide interest. Some take up a quarter of a page, some a full page. Some are tall and wide, some are long and skinny. There are even some that cause the reader to turn the book and open an extension page. These variations help to portray the size of Philippe's surroundings in various parts of the story. Ultimately, the complex illustrations combined with the simple language create a truly moving book.
Professional Review Excerpt
From Publishers Weekly This effectively spare, lyrical account chronicles Philippe Petit's tight rope walk between Manhattan's World Trade Center towers in 1974. Gerstein (What Charlie Heard) begins the book like a fairytale, "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: How Philippe and his pal shang 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. 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.

From School Library Journal Kindergarten-Grade 6-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 story lends itself to the investigation of the consequences to one's actions as well as the need for compassion sometimes.
~A Caldecott Unit would be incomplete without the study of this book and it's unique illustrations.
~The book serves as a biography of Philippe Petit.
~This is also a good option for opening a discussion about September 11th and other related historical information.

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