The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers is an enchanting account of Philippe Petit’s 1974 wire walking between the majestic twin towers of New York City. It almost has an ethereal and fairy tale like quality to it. Mesmerizing. Published just two years after the events of September 11, this story is a restrained, yet reverent homage to the spirit of those buildings. Even on the cover above, you can see a bald eagle flying below Petit feet. Moments of reverence mark this book without ever calling specific attention to the terrible things that also happened there. Mordecai Gerstein won the 2004 Caldecott Medal for this book, and his ever swift pacing deserves attention as well. This may be a hard one to sit with, but experiencing these buildings in an beautiful and impossible way is worth it.

He looked not at the towers but at the space between them

Perspective

In art, perspective refers to the creation of depth in an image. You learned to draw a cube somewhere along the way, right? You drew it in perspective. You represented three-dimensional form in a two-dimensional space.

{I clearly learned how to draw a loaf of bread rather than a cube. Genius.}

Perspective engages the viewer, and provides entry points into the art. It is simply your viewpoint. The goal of the artist then becomes creating a viewpoint that will best communicate their story. Mordecai Gerstein creates dizzying perspective in The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.

The tiny colored dots feel another world away. The thinness of the wire and the nothingness between our feet and the ground creates a feeling of suspense. We are quite literally walking through the sky.

Perspective causes us to watch helplessly as Petit scrambles headfirst down the steep side of the building, the harbor glistening in the background.

Perspective allows us to participate in Petit’s joy and celebration. Gerstein’s pull out spreads make the experience that much more rich and surprising. I want to speed through it and slow down all at the same time. Reading this book and its pictures is simultaneously thrilling and unsettling. And freeing.

{Philip Petit’s story is also told in an Oscar award winning documentary called Man On Wire. Check it out if you haven’t broken up with Netflix yet. The sheer audacity of this man is remarkable. And frightening. And impressive…because I am the girl who cried on a roller coaster at Magic Mountain after all. Last year.}

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4 thoughts on “The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

  1. Nice look at the layout and perspective. Way to draw a loaf of bread too.

    Getting a grip on pacing, POV and page turns are the secret sauce of picture books. Keep this stuff coming.

  2. Pingback: Everything You Need for a Celebration « Design of the Picture Book

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