While the book provides a poignant reminder on the absence of the twin towers, this is a great book about reaching for your dreams. If you’re planning a visit the Memorial plaza in New York city, this is a good introduction to what the towers symbolized and gives a child perspective on how tall they actually were and the impression they made on the city without dwelling on how they fell. They could also watch “Man on a Wire” as they get ready for their trip to New York.“Once there were two towers side by side.” For those who lived through the destruction of the twin towers, this fairy tale beginning may make your heart catch a little. But the story of the Man who Walked between Towers is about following your dreams, not dwelling on what happened later.
This is the true story of Philippe Petit, a French aerialist and street performer who was inspired by the construction of the towers. “He looked not at the towers but at the space between them and thought, what a wonderful place to stretch a rope; a wire on which to walk.” This unusual perspective made me smile as it is definitely something children are great at, a view of the world that is full of wonder and things that a grown up might overlook.
Inspired by the distance between the towers, Phillipe starts to plan his feat and, dressed as a construction worker, ends up carrying a 440 pound reel of cable the final one hundred and eighty stairs to the roof. The images of Phillipe and his friend standing on the roof and looking across to the other tower helped us understand the magnitude of the task, the images were daunting!
Through a series of near misses over a city in which the Statute of Liberty looks like a child’s toy, Phillipe and his friends manage to string the cable and in triumph, “[a]s the rising sun lit up the towers, out he stepped onto the wire.” Given how much attention window washers on really tall buildings attract, I can only imagine what his feat would have looked like from the ground. Mordachi Gerstein’s use of perspective, changing between Phillipe’s view and the pedestrian’s view of the towers really draws you in and helps you imagine the great height Phillipe crossed in his daring feat. My children didn’t dwell on the absence of the towers, but on the craziness of walking on a high wire, especially given that they have problems with a balance beam on the floor!
If you’d like to add The Man who Walked Between the Towers to your child’s library, click here: The Man Who Walked Between the Towers