The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers Book Study

Are you looking for a great book to teach comparing an actual event to its fictional account? If so, The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gertein is a great picture book for doing just that. The book is also a wonderful resource for highlighting the character traits of courage and triumph.


Begin by locating different versions of the story.  If your library doesn’t have a copy of the book, my Google search came up with both printable and YouTube readings. 

The handout contains all printables plus a link to the Google Slides version of the book study.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers Book Study

Reading Level

The Lexile Measure for The Man Who Walked Between the Towers is AD480L. The School Library Journal recommends the book for Kindergarten-Grade 6. Because the book is based on the true story of Philippe Petit, it appeals to older students.


Scholastic categorizes this story as informational text and historical fiction. Note: The text is written using lyrical words that resemble poetry.


The Man Who Walked Between the Towers is an excellent book for comparing a fictional account to an actual event.

Compare and contrast a fictional portrayal of a time, place, or character and a historical account of the same period as a means of understanding how authors of fiction use or alter history.



The Man Who Walked Between the Towers Book Study

This list contains nine words from the story that students may not know. The red words are the focus words selected for practice. You may wish to review the meanings of the other words before reading the story.



construction (worker)









Here is a sample vocabulary question from the handout:

Is cathedral used correctly in these sentences? True or False


The largest cathedral in the world is St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. T or F

The Normans build fortifications called cathedrals following their invasion of England in 1066. T or F

During the Middle Ages, a stone mason could spend his entire life working on one cathedral. T or F

Cathedrals were often built in the shape of a cross. T or F

The cathedral built by King Nebuchadnezzar II who ruled between 605 and 562 BC is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  T or F


The Man Who Walked Between the Towers Book Study

The handout also includes both comprehension questions and writing prompts.

Here are two example comprehension questions:

The text says “When he felt completely satisfied, he walked back to the roof and held out his wrists for the handcuffs.” The picture shows a second reason why Petit came down.  Petit most likely stopped the high-wire walking because…

a. a bird was pestering him
b. he grew tired of the police yelling started to rain
d. people were grabbing at his legs

Which idiom best describes the theme of this book?

a. Fortune favors the brave.
b. like a cat on hot bricks
c. even the score
d. Stop beating around the bush.


Explain why you selected this answer.


The Man Who Walked Between the Towers Fictional to Real Account

The handout includes two long answer writing prompts with organizers for students to plan their answers before writing them in paragraph form. The questions include:

  • List obstacles Petit confronted before, during, and after his high-wire walk.
  • Compare the story version to the historical account.
  • The student packet also contains 4 shorter answer open-ended questions including:
  • What is the setting of the story? How did the setting influence the events that took place?
  • List 3 character traits of Philippe. Give proof for each trait.
  • From which point of view and perspective is the story told?
  • What is the theme of this story?

Digital Option

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers Book Study

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers Book Study contains both printable and Google Slides. The printable questions and a link to get the Google Slides can be found in the handout.

Discussion Questions for The Man Who Walked Between the Towers

1. Philippe Petit completed many dangerous high-wire acts. Here are a few:
    • between the towers of the cathedral on Notre Dame in 1971
    • between the New York City Twin Towers in 1974
    • over Niagara Falls in 1985

Which of these would be the most dangerous? Explain why you selected this feat.


2. Read this passage from the story.

Hadn’t he danced on a wire between the steeples of

Notre Dame Cathedral above his amazed home city, Paris?

Why not here, between these towers?


How do these two structures compare? Was this a good comparison for Petit to make?

The Twin Towers –  Petit walked about 1,350 feet above the ground. Tower Height -1776 feet and 1792 to the tip (94 floors)

Notre Dame –226 feet tower height (2 floors)


3. The judge sentenced Petit to perform in the park for the children of the city. Do you feel this was an appropriate punishment for breaking the rules? Why or why not?


4. Was it necessary for Petit to spend an hour on the wire dancing and performing tricks? Should he have just walked across a couple of times and then come down? Explain.


5. Tell about a time you have experienced an act of bravery such as this one.


6. How do the illustrations in this book add to the story?


Tell specific examples of how the illustrations “tell” the story.


For example on page 27, what does the judge’s facial expression tell the audience about what he thinks of Petit’s walk between the towers?

If you missed the link above, here it is again.

Gay Miller

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