Picturebook Analysis

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers


In 1974, a brave aerialist named Philippe Petit walked upon a tightrope between the edges of the Twin Towers. He danced, shimmied and performed tantalizing tricks as hundreds of onlookers bit their nails and held their breath a quarter of a mile beneath him. The Man Who Walked Between the Towers retells this jaw-dropping, unbelievable true story by placing the reader into Petit's shoes. By using carefully crafted illustrations and multiple different perspectives, this book not only captures the reader's attention, but also makes their hearts jump into their throats as they appear to walk hand in hand between the Twin Towers with him.

Literary Elements

Even though the text adds context and dialogue to the book, the pictures could almost support the storyline all on their own. Throughout the book, there are different methods of conveying the plot, setting, characters, and theme by solely using pictures. The comic-book type layout of the book helps young readers process what's going on without having someone read to the text out loud to them. The pictures seem to plant the reader directly into the setting itself by transporting them into the windy, cold streets of New York City through the use of cool blues and soft grays. The characters are so detailed and individualized that the reader can easily distinguish between the various different people introduced throughout the story by memorizing their choice of outfit or their hair color. The reader can sense the theme through the illustrations simply by noticing how courageous and lionhearted Petit comes off to be.
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Physical Features

The cover of this book draws the reader in and challenges them to venture into the daring and venturesome world of Philippe Petit. The cover shows a slipper-clad foot cautiously traipsing on a tightrope over skyscrapers and primary colored cars littering the city below. A seagull soars directly underfoot to firmly hammer the idea into the reader's brain that he is walking higher than even birds can fly. If the reader were to flip the book over, they would see Petit's hind foot barely touching the wire with the tip of his toes as he continues to slowly make his way to his final destination.

Visual Elements

Every moment leading up to Petit walking between the towers is harrowing and full of anticipation but the pictures tend to make the situation even more real. On page 10, Petit is seen scaling the side of a skyscraper, with no ropes or gentle hands grasping him, in order to catch the arrow that is being tossed to him from the tower opposite him. The illustrator used thin, black, vertical lines to instill a sense of fear in the reader's heart. The city's lights are splattered across both sides of the turquoise water in the distance while the cars look like an army of tiny ants marching along the sidewalk. This paints not only a picture of how high up he is, but also how dangerous the task ahead is going to be.

Artistic Style

This book's artistic style leans more towards Impressionism. Usually, Impressionist Art tends to use lines that are small and thin but still visible, uses light in a way that shows the passage of time, revolves around ordinary subject matter, and depicts unordinary visual angles. The illustrations throughout the book are outline in simple, thin black lines that separate the various shades of blue, gray and purple from each other. The pictures at the beginning of the book use pastel colors, like daffodil yellow and pearl blue, to show the presence of daylight while the end of the book uses moody colors, like violet and indigo, to show the presence of nighttime. The subject matter is an ordinary human being (one with a wild heart and a thirst for danger) but an average person nonetheless. The pictures create multiple different angles to give the reader the perfect perspective into what Petit is experiencing at the time.
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Artistic Media

The use of thin, black ink and pastel oil paints modge-podge together to create images that are almost as intriguing as the story itself. The ink outlines the dark silhouette of Petit, the criss-cross of the panels on the skyscrapers, and the twisted, silver tightrope strung across the buzzing city. The pastel oil paints swirl together to create a cotton candy sky, a streak of florescent orange hair, and a backdrop of primary colored cars racing below.

Elements of Illustration

Throughout this book, there are different elements of illustration that spring up including: framing, arrangement, narrative sequence and page turns. There are numerous pictures that are framed within a white border which makes the picture bolder and more prominent on the page. Excluding the white border, there are also pictures that fill up every nook and cranny of the page it sits on. The book starts out with the bordered illustrations and slowly spirals into full page works of art.
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Interplay of Text and Illustrations

This book is easy to read and follow along with because of its short, simple explanations accompanying every picture. These explanations aren't daunting paragraphs that fill up the entire page with similes and metaphors, or random words sporadically sprinkled across the page. Instead, they are located solely above or below the images and contain a few short sentences to push the story along. The pictures could honestly tell the majority of the story on their own, but the words add a little more detail and context.