- Paperback: 32 pages
- Publisher: Puffin Books; Reprint edition (April 14 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0698114434
- ISBN-13: 978-0698114432
- Product Dimensions: 20.5 x 0.4 x 26 cm
- Shipping Weight: 113 g
- Customer Reviews: 40 customer ratings
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #224,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Mirette on the High Wire Paperback – April 14 1997
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★"A bravura performance." --Horn Book, starred review
★"A satisfying, high-spirited adventure." --School Library Journal, starred review
"An exotic, suspenseful story." --Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Emily McCully's artwork has been included in the International Biennale at Bratislava, and she has won a Christopher Award for Picnic, one of the many picture books that she has both written and illustrated.
Writing also for adults, Ms. McCully has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and New York State Council on the Arts. Her book, A Craving was nominated for an American Book Award.
The idea for Mirette on the High Wire began as a biography of real-life daredevil Blondin. But the author changed her mind to accomodate the tree-climbing child and risk-taking adult she was and is.
copyright © 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.
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Ms. McCully had originally set out to write a biography of the famous tightrope walker Blondin, when she decided to write this book instead. The Mirette character is based on her own recollections of being a brave girl.
This book contains unusually high quality illustrations, even for a Caldecott Medal Winner (as the best illustrated children's book of 1993). The style shares a great deal with Toulouse-Lautrec but is more appealing because there is more subtlety and use of soft pastel shades. You will definitely feel like you've stepped through the looking glass into a world of entertainment in 1890's Paris.
The story opens to find Mirette helping her mother keep a boardinghouse for entertainers (traveling players for the theaters and music halls) called Gateau's. "Acrobats, jugglers, actors, and mimes from as far away as Moscow and New York" stayed and ate there. What a wonderful place for a child!
Mirette, unfortunately, had the not so exciting tasks of "washing linens, chopping leeks, paring potatoes, and mopping floors." She was "a good listener, too."
One day, Bellini (a retired high-wire walker) came to stay. "I am here for a rest." Soon, he had set up his wire in the back and was practicing. He refused to teach Mirette when she asked to learn. "Once you start, your feet are never happy again on the ground." She replied, "My feet are already unhappy on the ground." While he was away sometimes she would practice. After weeks of falls and problems, she could go across the whole wire. She showed him.
He responded. "Most give up. But you kept trying. Perhaps you have talent as well."
His key advice: "Never let your eyes stray." "Think only of the wire, and of crossing to the end."
When she says she'll never fall again, he warns her not to boast.
Later an agent from Astley's Hippodrome in London comes to Gateau's and recognizes Bellini. The agent recounts some of his many feats including crossing Niagara Falls on a 1000 foot wire in 10 minutes, and cooking an omelet on a stove of live coals on the way back. He had also toasted the crowd with champagne. Bellini had crossed the Alps on another occasion. Further, he had fired a cannon from the wire over the bullring in Barcelona, and crossed a flaming wire blind-folded in Naples. Ah! Oh exciting!
There's only one problem: He has lost his "nerves of an iceberg."
Encouraged by the agent, Bellini plans a comeback. He walks out on the wire and freezes. What next?
Mirette saves the day by reaching her hands out to him, and meeting him on the wire.
The book's final page shows a poster of Mirette and Bellini saying that they are wire walkers who do "stupendous feats." A little girl looks up at the poster.
As you can see, this is quite a good story, and works in Mirette's heroism in a natural way. The character development is quite good, and the historical context is interesting. Children often wonder what people did for entertainment before television.
As a parent, you may want to make a little addition to the story that, of course, Mirette's mother joined them in traveling around to do the act. Otherwise, this story could be incorrectly construed as encouraging young girls to go traveling around with grown men.
The great lesson in this book is focus. Where would that lesson help your child? Where would it help you?
Use your focus to live your most positive dreams!
Top international reviews
Then an agent finds Bellini and asks him to perform a great feat in public: but Bellini confesses to Mirette that he is now afraid of the tightrope, which is why he has been hiding in her mother's boarding house. Still, he doesn't want to disappoint the young girl, and so he takes a step toward returning to life in the air. As it turns out, he cannot accomplish this without Mirette's help. A nice story about talent, ambition, fear, and extending a helping hand.
This book is great as a read aloud for younger kids, and a good early reader for those slightly older. To the author's great credit, the vocabulary is NOT simplified -- your child may actually learn something while enjoying the story.
The 2nd sequel, in which the wire-walking duo cross the Niagara Falls, is OK, but not as magical. Seems a bit forced. We have not read the other sequel yet.