Friday, January 24, 2014

The Man Who Walked Between The Towers by Mordicai Gerstein (Author and Illustrator)

Published 2003

I'm so glad this was the first book that I read for this class! I was becoming concerned it would be difficult to apply what I'm learning about picture books to what I actually teach in high school. However, after reading Mordicai Gerstein's The Man Who Walked Between The Towers, I'm no longer concerned about this at all. In fact, I'm looking forward to reading more picture books and finding ways I can incorporate the material into my lesson planning.

The Man Who Walked Between The Towers is a beautifully, illustrated picture book based on the incredible aerial walk by Frenchman Philippe Petit that occurred between the two World Trade Center Towers in New York City on August 7, 1974. The first thing I wanted to find out was when the book was published to see how many years had passed since the tragic events of September 11th. I learned the book was published in 2003, less than two years after the deadly attack. As I began reading the story and this seemingly "joyful" event was unfolding, I couldn't get thoughts of September 11th out of my mind, so I tried to think of ways I could use the book in class in a meaningful way.

First of all, I could have my students read the book themselves, or I could read it to them out loud as an introduction to a reading, writing, or research project. We could discuss the basic plot of the story, analyze the main character Philippe Petit and then conduct some biographical research on Petit's life. It would be interesting to learn more about Petit's time in France when he walked between the two towers of Notre Dame Cathedral. How long ago did that event happen? Perhaps, students could conduct a WebQuest. They could research Petit's earlier aerial walk and write a paper comparing and contrasting the two events. 

Another approach could be to have students write a theme paper or persuasive paper on a particular aspect of the book. They could focus on the underlying message the author may have intended or discuss whether or not Philippe should have broken the law in order to accomplish his goal. Either approach would permit lively discussion and, I believe, would engage students in thought-provoking debate.

Finally, I could have students focus on the one page in the book that really caught my attention. It has only one line written on a blank, white page:  "Now the towers are gone." I was surprised when I read that one line, and yet I found there was so much meaning to it. Then, I began to realize my students are much too young to even realize the impact September 11th has had and continues to have on our country even to this day. To think that the towers ARE gone brought back so many memories. This book could serve as a great introduction to a research project based on Philippe Petit's life or a research paper based on the tragic events of September 11th. Reading this book in class could serve as a reminder that we, as Americans, should never take our freedom for granted. We should never forget that there are some in this world who would like to destroy the values and freedoms that we, as Americans, cherish.

Images for the Man Who Walked Between The Towers
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