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Mirette on the High Wire Paperback – April 14, 1997
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Mirette and the "Great Bellini" traverse the Paris skyline on high wire in the climactic scene of this picture book about conquering fear. The two meet at Mirette's mother's boarding house, where Bellini is staying with a troupe of traveling performers. Mirette persuades Bellini to teach her his art, and soon enough the two are performing above the rooftops of Paris. While Mirette gets to step outside her daily routine of peeling potatoes and scrubbing floors, Bellini manages to reaffirm his mastery. The story affords a spunky, down-to-earth role model for readers who like to dream big dreams. It also offers rich, scenic portraits of 19th century Paris. The book won the 1993 Caldecott Medal. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
In this picture book set in 19th-century Paris, a child helps a daredevil who has lost his edge to regain his confidence. Many traveling performers stay at Madame Gateaux's boarding house, but Mme.'s daughter Mirette is particularly taken with one guest--the quiet gentleman who can walk along the clothesline without falling off. Mirette implores the boarder to teach her his craft, not knowing that her instructor is the "Great Bellini" of high wire fame. After much practice the girl joins Bellini on the wire as he conquers his fear and demonstrates to all of Paris that he is still the best. McCully's story has an exciting premise and starting point, but unfortunately ends up as a missed opportunity. Bellini's anxiety may be a bit sophisticated for the intended audience and, surprisingly, the scenes featuring Mirette and Bellini on the high wire lack drama and intensity. McCully's rich palette and skillful renderings of shadow and light sources make this an inviting postcard from the Old World. Ages 4-8.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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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.
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.