Myra, Fats & Iphigene host this meme at Gathering Books, and today I'm reviewing a Caldecott winner, Mirette On The High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully for that challenge.
It’s always good to find a book that offers a flavor of another time and place. Mirette On The High Wire does that well. The illustrations capture the flavor of France’s impressionists in lovely watercolor.
The time is 100 years ago in Paris, where a little girl named Mirette is the daughter of the boardinghouse owner. As she goes about her chores, she notices a man named Bellini who keeps to himself, is not interested in interacting with anyone, especially young girls. Mirette discovers that he is walking on a wire in the inner courtyard ‘walking on air’. She is enraptured with the idea; the story says that ‘her feet tingled’. She tries to convince Bellini to teach her. He refuses, saying that ‘Once you start, your feet are never happy again on the ground’.
Mirette doesn’t give up her quest to learn, and practices in secrecy. Soon she is discovered, and then Bellini does teach her. There is a frightening climax where Mirette helps Bellini as he has helped her. The story is about courage and persistence as well as kindness and caring for others when they are in need. It will open good conversations with students about following one’s dream when the opportunity arises. Here at the beginning of the school year, it’s also time to talk about being mindful of others’ feelings and taking time to help when one can. Mirette’s character shows her willingness to do that beautifully.
The book cover shares that McGully has the idea for the story when she was researching a real life daredevil named Blondin, who lived about a hundred years ago, and really did cross Niagara Falls on a wire. You can find out a little more about him and see a photo of him crossing the falls here.