Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004
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*****= An all-time favorite
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****The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

by Mordecai Gerstein

Reviewed May 7, 2004.
Roaring Brook Press, Brookfield, Connecticut, 2003.  36 pages.
The 2004 Boston Globe Horn Book Picture Book Award Winner.
Winner of the 2004 Caldecott Medal.
Available at Sembach Library (J 791.34 GER).
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2004, #4, Children's Nonfiction

It’s easy to see why this wonderful picture book won the Caldecott Medal for illustration.  This is a nonfiction book that wasn’t written to help kids write a report, but to tell a good story.

In 1974, Philippe Petit, juggler, acrobat and tightrope walker, saw the Twin Towers going up.  He thought what a wonderful place that would be to walk between, just as he had once walked between the spires of Notre Dame.

He wisely didn’t expect to be able to get permission, so he conceived a plan to disguise himself and some friends as workmen and put a cable across.  On the morning of August 7, 1974, he spent almost an hour walking, dancing, and even lying down on a cable stretched between the towers.

Naturally, such behavior is against the law.  The drawings of the police trying to arrest him are delightful.  His sentence was perfect—to perform for the children of New York City.

The illustrations in this book are incredible.  They will give any normal person the shivers!  Mordicai Gerstein even includes two pull-out sections to make the sense of height more intense.  I simply had to share the book with my ten-year-old son, and he also can’t stop exclaiming over it.  “That’s a scary book!”

The book ends simply.  “Now the towers are gone.  But in memory, as if imprinted on the sky, the towers are still there.  And part of that memory is the joyful morning, August 7, 1974, when Philippe Petit walked between them in the air.”

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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