The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

Last updated Monday, June 11, 2012

Author: Mordicai Gerstein
Date of Publication: 2003
ISBN: 1606861891
Grade Level: 1st    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jun. 2012

Synopsis: From 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 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.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  What is the highest building you have ever been in? What did you see?
•  Have you seen a tightrope walker? Have you ever been to a circus?

•  Funambulist: tightrope walker
•  Plummeted: to fall from a great height
•  Frantically: in an excited way
•  Swayed: to move to one side or in a particular direction
•  Astonishing: to fill with sudden and overpowering surprise or wonder;

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  Why would they be afraid to have someone walk between the top of the towers?
•  From what country is Philippe from? (France)
•  Why didn't the police walk out there to get Philippe?
•  Would you do this?

Craft ideas:
•  Fold a piece of construction paper in half. Cut two tabs, then open paper and push them through. Cut "buildings" out of separate piece of paper. Tape or paste "buildings" on to tabs. Place a piece of string between "buildings." Draw clouds and birds behind the "buildings", draw streets, cars, and crowds on the other side * SEE EXAMPLE

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!