n b n
How often do you think about the World Trade Center Towers now that they are gone? If you want a book that both celebrates the majesty of these two buildings, and a memory of what once was, "The Man Who Walked Between The Towers", by Mordiaci Gerstein, would be a picture book to keep. Last week, this book won the coveted 2004 Caldecott award! Mr. Gerstein has painted, in both word and picture, a story based on a date back in 1974 when Philippe Petit walked from the top of one tower to the top of the next. He begins his story with a rendering of the two towers and the words, "Once there were two towers side by side." The rest of the book is about how the idea began, in Petit's mind, to tight-rope walk across the wide space between these two giants. The evolution and execution of achieving this enormous feat is written and painted in dramatic perspective. The book reaches its true breathtaking heights with a fold-out from Petit's vantage point high up in the clouds and then turning the page to find another fold-out of the view from way down on the street. Ultimately, Mr. Gerstein wraps up this incredible feat in the last two pages with the reality, simplicity and sadness that "...the towers are gone", but the memory lives on. I remember when this event happened, but it took this book to jar my memory. Fortunately for all, Mr. Gerstein had read much about this event. So, when the tragedy of September 11, 2001 destroyed the buildings, he immediately began his book. And luckily for us that he did. This is a magnificent celebration of what once was and never will be forgotten! This is a great book for all ages.
n b n
Reader, are you ready for a tale about a long tail belonging to a mouse? "The Tale of Despereaux", by Kate DiCamillo, is about a very small mouse with a long tail and big ears. Furthermore, this book is this year's Newbery Award winner! Despereaux Tilling was born with his eyes wide open and knows how to read. When he finds himself in the same room as the king and his daughter, Princess Pea, he falls in love. Now the story might sound simple and resonate an old fashioned theme of devotion, but it's much more complex than that. There are really three stories going on intermittently. Roscuro, the rat, lives deep in the underbelly of the castle where the condemned have been banished to live out their lives. When he discovers the light from upstairs, he embraces the power that comes with it. He wants to become part of the castle and all that it offers. But, in order to do so, he must find something, or someone, who will help him deliver his treacherous plans. Enter the third story: Miggery Sow. She is a slow-witted servant who happens to fall into Roscuro's evil plan. The author goes back to Miggery's beginnings to give the reader a sense of her imperfections and upbringing. Miggery happen chances upon Roscuro. It's one of the timing sequences where she just happens to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. All three stories are separate but relate to each other because they all have the same setting and time-frame. The different tone of each story immediately relays to the reader that Roscuro's intentions are evil, but that Despereaux's are good. And poor Miggery will be lucky to come out of this story with any kind of an advantage. Eventually, however, the stories merge and collide, and all three protagonists must choose their fate. Ms. DiCamillo has addressed the reader throughout by asking pertinent questions relating to the situation, the characters and even some of the language. One such address reads, "Reader, do you know what 'perfidy' means? I have a feeling you do, based on the little scene that has just unfolded here. But you should look up the word in your dictionary, just to be sure."
What this story encompasses is an enchanting and enthralling tale that is both funny, sweet and sad, and at times even a little frightening. The detailed pencil etchings, by Timothy Basil Ering, add to the mystique and ambience of the story. This is perhaps one of the finest read-a-louds to come along for kids in some time and is a great book for kids ages 10 and older!