The Washington Post
Gerstein's ink and oil paintings of that "joyful morning" aren't for anyone with a fear of heights; the perspectives are dizzying enough to make the strongest stomach lurch.
This effectively spare, lyrical account chronicles Philippe Petit's tightrope walk between Manhattan's World Trade Center towers in 1974. Gerstein (What Charlie Heard) begins the book like a fairy tale, "Once there were two towers side by side. They were each a quarter of a mile high... The tallest buildings in New York City." The author casts the French aerialist and street performer as the hero: "A young man saw them rise into the sky.... He loved to walk and dance on a rope he tied between two trees." As the man makes his way across the rope from one tree to the other, the towers loom in the background. When Philippe gazes at the twin buildings, he looks "not at the towers but at the space between them.... What a wonderful place to stretch a rope; a wire on which to walk." Disguised as construction workers, he and a friend haul a 440-pound reel of cable and other materials onto the roof of the south tower. How Philippe and his pals hang the cable over the 140-feet distance is in itself a fascinating-and harrowing-story, charted in a series of vertical and horizontal ink and oil panels. An inventive foldout tracking Philippe's progress across the wire offers dizzying views of the city below; a turn of the page transforms readers' vantage point into a vertical view of the feat from street level. When police race to the top of one tower's roof, threatening arrest, Philippe moves back and forth between the towers ("As long as he stayed on the wire he was free"). Gerstein's dramatic paintings include some perspectives bound to take any reader's breath away. Truly affecting is the book's final painting of the imagined imprint of the towers, now existing "in memory"-linked by Philippe and his high wire. Ages 5-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This eloquently written and craftily illustrated book details for children the true story of famed French aerialist Philippe Petit's 1974 tightrope walk between the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. In the bulk of the book, Gerstein captures the awe-striking beauty of the event with lyrical words and simple but dramatic oil-and-pen illustrations. The somewhat awkward mention in the last two pages of the events of September 11, 2001, though, may be a bit abrupt and may confuse children about the relationship between it and the tightrope feat. In those pages, however, Gerstein manages to both address the issue that could not very well be left out of a story about the twin towers and give children a glimpse of the shock and dismay that the world felt at their fall. 2003, Roaring Brook Press, Ages 3 to 8.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 6-In 1974, a young Frenchman saw the completion of the World Trade Center towers as an irresistible invitation to stretch a cable between them and dance across it. Gorgeous oil-and-ink paintings capture the aerialist's spirited feat and breathtaking perspectives high above Manhattan harbor. Winner of the 2004 Caldecott Medal. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
A spare recounting of Philippe Petit's daring 1974 wire walk between the Twin Towers depicts him as a street performer who defies authority to risk his feat, is arrested, and then sentenced to perform for the children of New York. At the conclusion, on the only non-illustrated page are the stark words, "Now the towers are gone," followed by the changed skyline and finally by a skyline on which are etched the ghost-like shapes of the towers as memory of the buildings and of Petit's exploit. At the heart are the spreads of Petit on the narrow wire, so far above the city that Earth's curve is visible. Two ingenious gatefolds draw readers' eyes into the vertiginous sweep of wirewalker-sky and city below. Unparalleled use of perspective and line-architectural verticals opposed to the curve of wires and earth-underscore disequilibrium and freedom. In a story that's all about balance, the illustrations display it exquisitely in composition. Readers of all ages will return to this again and again for its history, adventure, humor, and breathtaking homage to extraordinary buildings and a remarkable man. (Picture book/nonfiction. 5+)
From the Publisher
“Gerstein's dramatic paintings include some perspectives bound to take any reader's breath away. Truly affecting.” Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“Readers of all ages will return to this again and again for its history, adventure, humor, and breathtaking homage to extraordinary buildings and a remarkable man.” Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
“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.” School Library Journal (Starred Review)