Gerstein was the master behind books such as "The Night World," "The Sleeping Gypsy," and "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers," which earned him the Caldecott Prize for distinguished children's books of American figures in 2004.
He died on September 24 at his home in Westhampton, Massachusetts, the New York Times reported. His wife, artist Susan Yard Harris, told the Times that he died of metastatic esophageal cancer.
Gerstein was always an artist, attending art school in his hometown of Los Angeles and moving to New York shortly thereafter. He made a living painting and drawing animated TV commercials and children's shows, but all that changed in 1970 when he met author Elizabeth Levy.
Levy, a young author of the time, had written a mystery book for children and asked Gerstein to illustrate it. He did, launching a long career that lasted decades.
"From the beginning, I loved the medium of picture books. It was cinema, drawing and theater, all in one," he wrote. on his website.
With Levy's encouragement, he began writing his own books. His first, "Arnold of the Ducks", was published in 1983.
Gerstein has written and illustrated more than 40 books during his career, receiving more than a dozen awards. The Caldecott Award-winning book, "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers," was published in 2003. It told the story of French walker Philippe Petit, who tied a cable between the two towers of the World Trade Center in August 1974. Petit He spent an hour walking, sitting, and dancing on the cable as the astonished onlookers watched from the streets below.
"I didn't just want to tell the story of the walk – I wanted the book to be the walk between the cardboard covers," he said in your speech accepting the award.
He approached the destruction of the towers in the 9/11 attacks in a simple but moving way. The book ended with a page that had only these words: "Now the towers are gone."
Gerstein's subject ranged from retelling Bible stories to imaginary worlds – often delving into larger questions about human life and experience.
"Each book seems to be, in some ways, essentially different from the others; I have to learn to do each one, and each one comes as a surprise to me," he wrote. "I think making books, or any kind of art, can also be like mining. Artists dive into their lives and imaginations and never know what they will find there. It's always an adventure."
He once said that all of his books are about people and that, in a way, all stories are about "this mystery of being a human being."
"What are we here for and what are we doing? What should we do? How should I be a child? How to be a teenager? How am I? I think all stories are about that, and my stories certainly are," he said. in a 2005 interview with TeachingBooks.net.
Regarding his artistic process, he continued: "I imagine that I am the person and I try to create the sensation of what it is like to be that person."