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Mirette on the High Wire

Mirette on the High Wire[Paperback]

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McCully, E. A. (1992). Mirette on the high wire. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc., by arrangement with The Putnam & Grosset Book Group.


Mirette is a little girl growing up in Paris over a hundred years ago. She lives and works in her families boarding house that is frequented by traveling actors and entertainers. One day a sad, retired high-wire walker named Bellini arrived at the boarding house. The next day Mirette saw him practicing and asked him to teach her to walk on the high wire.

Initially he said no, so when he wasn’t around she began practicing alone. After a few weeks she showed him her progress and he began helping her. Soon she learned of his many great accomplishments and that he currently he retired because he had developed a fear while on the wire.

Bellini did not want to disappoint Mirette and decided to face his fear. During the show his fear returned. Mirette began walking at the other end and then they walked together. This made Bellini’s courage return. They now had a bright future as a master and pupil of high wire walking.

My Impression

This is a whimsical book full of heart. The watercolor illustrations seem dreamlike. The lesson about not giving up and facing your fears is wonderful. However, I would hope that it does not encourage actual attempts at high-wire walking! I would recommend it for all elementary age children.


McCully has created a picture book in a totally different vein than that of Picnic or School. Set 100 years ago at a boarding house in Paris, the story features Mirette, the owner’s young daughter. One day the great high-wire walker Bellini arrives to stay, and in fascination Mirette observes him practicing his craft. Curious and committed, Mirette begins studying with Bellini and quickly learns the tricks of the trade. She also discovers, however, that her teacher is stricken with fear and no longer performs. In refusing to accept this, she spurs Bellini to stage a comeback above the streets of Paris. McCully delivers an exciting outcome, and her gutsy heroine and bright, impressionistic paintings provide a very satisfying reading experience. Category: For the Young. 1992, Putnam, $14.95. Ages 4-7.

Broderick, K. (1992, November 15).  [Review of the book Mirette on the high wire, by E. A. McCully]. Booklist 89(6). Retrieved from http://www.booklistonline.com/

Mirette skillfully walks a tightrope in 19th century Paris and helps the frightened artist who taught her. 1992, Putnam, $15.95 and $5.95. Ages 4 to 8.

Quattlebaum, M. (1992).  [Review of the book Mirette on the high wire, by E. A. McCully]. Children’s Literature. Retrieved from http://www.childrenslit.com/

Uses in the Library

This Caldecott Award winning book has amazing illustrations. The lines are expressive, yet not precise. I would use this book in a book talk about the different kind of illustrations found in books and how all different kinds of illustrations are worthy of the award. I would showcase this book to demonstrate watercolor illustrations. Then use other Caldecott winner to demonstrate colored pencil drawings, pen and ink sketches, black and white with splashes of color artwork, and combination illustrations.


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