Book Review: Mirette on the High Wire

This week we are revisiting some Caldecott Medal-winning favorites. Early in the week we featured Owl Moon. Today we take a look at Mirette on the High Wire, a long-time Fair Play favorite.

I recently asked my mother to select some of our family’s favorite picture books. Raising four children of their own and now two grandchildren, my parents’ collection has become well-honed over time. Every book that remains seems to have a distinct purpose – a lesson to learn, gender fair and anti-racist representation, or beautiful illustrations and rhythmic text. Needless to say, competition for this short list of favorites was hot. Today we’ll talk about one of the winners (and Caldecott award winner), Emily Arnold McCully’s Mirette on the High Wire.

Mirette helps her mother out at the inn she runs. When a famous tight rope walker, Bellini, comes to stay, Mirette becomes quite interested in him and his abilities. When Mirette approaches him about teaching her to walk the high wire as well, he refuses her. Mirette takes it upon herself to learn. After watching her struggle but persevere, Bellini eventually agrees to train her, and she becomes something of his protegé. Perhaps one of my favorite lines in all of children’s fiction is what Bellini tells Mirette upon agreeing to teach her: “in the beginning everyone falls. Most give up. But you kept trying.”

Mirette on the High Wire is also about Bellini’s own struggles. Although quite famous, he struggles with anxiety before a big performance. His struggle is in lovely balance with Mirette’s. Although quite accomplished, Bellini still feels the fear of performing; Mirette struggles to learn to walk the tight rope, and to appreciate the humility and risk that endeavor entails.

And, as if all of these lessons about perseverance and humility were not enough, this is also a stunningly illustrated book. Here are a couple of my favorites:

Support Fair Play and purchase Mirette on the High Wire here

For the portrayal of a strong female character, lovely illustrations, and important life-long lessons, Fair Play gives Mirette on the High Wire five pinwheels:

Originally posted 10/28/12.

Book Review is an ongoing series where we review one or several books, often pertaining to a theme or holiday. This week we are inspired by some visually stunning Caldecott Medal winners. To request a review of a particular type of book, leave a comment on Facebook or our Review Page!

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