A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Philippe Petit's awe-inspiring tightrope adventure a quarter of a mile in the air was extremely dangerous. Gerstein's illustrations -- which won him the 2004 Caldecott medal -- are so successful at giving the reader a sense of perspective from the incredible height of the twin towers that some readers may experience a feeling of vertigo from looking at them. The final painting is of of the imagined imprint of the towers, which, since the terrorist attack of 9/11, 2001, exist only in memory.
What's the story?
Based on the true story of Philippe Petit, a French street performer living in New York City who specialized in tight rope walking, the events occurred in 1974. Petit decided that he wanted to walk from one of the towers of the World Trade Center to the other. At that time the towers were still under construction, so Petit and a friend dressed up as construction workers and managed to bring a 440-pound spool of cable to the roof of one of the towers. With the help of two additional friends on the opposite tower, they connected the cable from one tower to the other. Early on the morning of Aug. 7, 1974, Petit spent an hour at 1,340 feet in the air, walking and performing from one of the twin towers to the other.
Is it any good?
While the text is strong and appealing, the poetry is in the illustrations, so clear, glorious, and powerful that this could almost be a wordless book. Rendered in oil and ink, Mordecai Gerstein's use of perspective and panorama is remarkable. His stunning illustrations won him the 2004 Caldecott Medal.While unsettling in many ways, the story and images in this impressive book pay homage to a place that looms large in our national psyche. Created by a talented and experienced author/artist of more than two dozen books for children, it is a book that will be remembered by readers for many years.
Like the World Trade Center towers -- the tallest buildings in New York City, and the site of the worst act of aggression on American soil -- this is a story of extremes. The events involve an act of the utmost danger and foolhardiness, yet one's relief at the aerialist's success is tremendous as well.
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