Monday, July 09, 2007

Mirette on the High Wire

Do you have fear of heights? I do. I am scared of peeping out from rooftops or balconies. More than the fear of heights; it is the fear of what would happen if I fall down that scares me a lot. I start imagining weird stuff. Even if I had to walk on the walls; I would think twice in my younger ages. So, it was with great wonder that I picked up the book - 'Mirette on the High Wire' by Emily Arnold McCully.

This is a nice picture book about a girl named Mirette. Her mother, widow Gateau, runs a boardinghouse in Paris - where all the actors, jugglers, acrobats and various other artists come from near and far to spend time with one another and eat the widows' wonderful food. Mirette helps her mother by doing various chores for her. One day, she notices one of the residents of the boarding house crossing the courtyard on air! She is highly enchanted by the stranger's skill of walking on high wire and decides to learn walking on the wire.

She pleads the stranger to teach her walking on the wire. The stranger turns out to be Bellini, the world famous exponent of high-wire walking. Bellini is so famous and good at walking on high wire that he had once crossed Niagara Falls on high wire and while crossing spent a few minutes to cook some boiled eggs on the wire; eat them; and then continue walking on the wire to the other side. A daredevil. Sadly now, he is retired and does not perform any more public stunts.

After much pleading, Mirette starts to learn high wire walking from the master himself. While learning and through other means, she finds out the reason why Bellini had stopped performing and retired. Bellini had suddenly developed fear of heights and is afraid! Even the greatest of stunts men and women are afraid and once it comes to their mind; it is very difficult to overcome it. Overcoming fear is probably more difficult than the task itself.

The rest of the story involves the details on how Mirette helps Bellini to overcome his fear.

Emily Arnold McCully has written and illustrated this wonderful picture book. The story is set in 19th Century and costumes, the dresses, the picturesque background buildings represent an old European city in vivid and bright colours. The various characters in the boarding house are depicted in interesting colours, hats and dresses - in order to illustrate the variety and differences among various artists. As one reviewer in Amazon pointed out; if you are looking for a picture book where the female character shows a lot spunk and is not depicted as being shy and cloy, do pick this book up.


Meera Sriram said...

Hi Sathish,

An offbeat subject in the children's domain; sounds very interesting. I am sure I will be able to relate to it as I often experience Vertigo myself (more gentic in my case). The list of books that I need to grab from the library seems to be growing exponentially -:)
Thanks for the pointer.

sathish said...

meera, There is much recent book called - "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers" which talks about high-wire walking (probably based on true life story) - which was a caldecott winner

Meera Sriram said...

Thanks Sathish!

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