The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

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The Man Who Walked Between the Towers
CM between towers.jpg
Author Mordicai Gerstein
Illustrator Mordicai Gerstein
Country United States
Genre Children's picture book
Publisher Roaring Brook Press and Millbrook Press
Publication date
ISBN 0-7613-1791-0
OCLC 52215062
791.3/4/092 B 21
LC Class GV551 .G47 2003

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers is a children's picture book written and illustrated by American Mordicai Gerstein. Published in 2003, the book recounts the heart-stopping achievement of Philippe Petit, a French man who, on an August morning in 1974, walked, lay, knelt and danced on a tightrope wire between the roofs of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, a quarter mile above the ground. Gerstein won the 2004 Caldecott Medal for his illustrations.[1] The book has been adapted to film and ballet.


The Man Who Walked Between The Towers follows the French street performer Philippe Petit in an illustrated children's book made by author Mordicai Gerstein. Philippe Petit had an idea to walk a wire between the twin towers and acted upon it with much planning and setting up. He had once walked a wire on the Notre Dame where he lived in Paris, France. Early on an August morning, since the towers were not quite finished, Philippe Petit and his friend dressed up as a construction worker and went up the south tower. They got a 440 lbs of cable into the elevator. Took it to the top 10 floors and waited until nightfall. Then they carried everything up 180 stairs into the roof. At midnight, two more friends came to help and tied a line through an arrow and shot it across to Philippe 140 feet away. It missed and landed on a ledge who crawled down the ledge of the tower to get the arrow. To the line he attached a stronger line, whom his friends pulled back and he tied it to a cable that was 5/8 of an inch thick. The cable was so heavy that it took them 3 hours to secure the line from across the two towers. By past dawn of August 7, 1974, they had tightened it between the towers. Philippe then put on his black shirt and tights and picked up his 28-foot balancing pole and started walking on the wire. He felt, "Alone and absolutely free", as author Mordecai Gerstein writes. The bystanders notice someone walking between the two towers and quickly notify the police. Officers rushed to the roof of the towers and yelled to Philippe, "You're under arrest!" For almost an hour Philippe walked, danced, and leaped back and forth between the wire. He even laid down to rest. When he felt completely satisfied, he walked towards the tower and held out his wrists towards the handcuffs. They brought Philippe to court and the judge sentenced him to perform in the park for the children of the city. This he did happily. Though during his performance some kids jerked his wire and Philippe fell but caught himself. Now the towers are gone but the memory remains of August 7, 1974 when a man walked between the towers.


The book was adapted as an animated short film of the same name in 2005 by Michael Sporn for Weston Woods Studios.[2] It was narrated by Jake Gyllenhaal. The film received the Audience Choice Award for best short film at the 2005 Heartland Film Festival,[3] and the award for Best Short Animation Made for Children at the 2006 Ottawa International Animation Festival. It is included as an extra on the DVD of the Oscar-winning British documentary film Man on Wire (2008).

The book was also adapted as a two-act ballet of the same name at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey. It was conceived, choreographed and directed by Paule Turner, premiering in December 2008 to exceptionally good reviews.[4] Dancing was the primary medium, and the production also used puppetry, especially during the wirewalking sequence.

The Walk, a biographical drama starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Philippe Petit, was released in September 2015.

Critical reception[edit]

The Man Who Walked Between The Towers was published to very strong and heartfelt reviews for the story and the illustrations by Gerstein. Kirkus Reviews said, "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." Publishers Weekly described it as "Gerstein's dramatic paintings include some perspectives bound to take any reader's breath away. Truly affecting." The School Library Journal claimed "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."

See also[edit]

  • Man on Wire (2008 film) documentary biopic film about the crossing
  • The Walk (2015 film) biopic drama film about the crossing


  1. ^ American Library Association: "2004, Mordicai Gerstein", Caldecott Medal Winners, 1938 - Present], American Library Association, URL accessed 27 May 2009.
  2. ^ "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers". Retrieved 2006-09-18.
  3. ^ "Heartland Film Festival Concludes Another Record Breaking Year". 2005. Retrieved 2006-09-18.
  4. ^ 'Towers' an all-around dance department hit". The Whit Online. 11 December 2008. Retrieved 2006-09-18.
Preceded by
My Friend Rabbit
Caldecott Medal recipient
Succeeded by
Kitten's First Full Moon