This blog is about reluctant readers and getting kids to read more, not about me recommending books. But the idea for this post will simply not go away. It won't leave me alone. So here goes...
All the talk this week of the sixth anniversary of 9/11 got me thinking about one special book, one of my all-time favorite picture books. I pulled it off the shelf last night and read it to my son, and it's as good as ever.
My kids are really too young to remember 9/11—isn't that weird?—so they do not "get" the backstory behind The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein. But they love the story.
The book's breathtaking illustrations and deceivingly simple text are a sweet and exciting retelling of a true story. It's the riveting tale of a young tightrope walker and thrill seeker named Philippe Petit who—with the help of a few friends—strings a cable between New York's almost-completed World Trade Center towers in 1974 and how he proceeds to spend one summer morning walking between them.
There's just something about that book that gets me every time. Maybe it's simply the tale of how someone took this magnificent pair of buildings and did a positive, creative, life-affirming thing with them. You can't help but consider in your mind as you read the story how others would later use these majestic structures for such a tragic, evil and destructive purpose. 9/11 is only mentioned in a very abstract way at the end, but it can be used as a way to gently introduce the story of what happened to those buildings.
So next time you're at the library or in a bookstore, pick it up and look through it. It's not just a Cadecott Medal winner, it's magical in some way that's hard to describe. Perhaps it's simply that Mr. Gerstein took a terrible, tragic event and through the creative process took some of that negative energy and—through the prism of his creativity—transformed it back into something positive again. Now that's magical.