Mirette on the High Wire

Mirette on the High Wire

Enjoy the story of one “gallant, resourceful little girl.”

After reading the delightful story of Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McGully, the only word that comes to mind is enchanting. It was absolutely enchanting! Not only were the beautiful watercolors of the book mesmerizing; the story itself was so inspiring. Mirette is a young girl who lives in Paris 100 years ago. She helps her widowed mother run a boarding house, which is frequented by unique circus performers and other colorful people.

Mirette is a good helper to her mother, but she really loves to listen to the stories. One night, a quiet man who looks very sad comes to board at their home. Mirette sees him walk a tightrope and declares that she would love to learn the skill; however, he tells her no. Of course, this does not stop headstrong red-haired Mirette! She begins to practice secretly each day until she gets quite good at the skill, and when she shows the man how she has been practicing, he agrees to take her under his wing and teach her more.

When it is revealed that the man is actually the great Bellini who crossed over oceans and mountains on the high wire—sometimes shooting a cannon, or frying an egg, or stopping to drink champagne on the way—Mirette is amazed and wants to join his act. He refuses, and it is revealed that his sadness stems from his fear of doing such acts again.

Inspired by Mirette, however, the artist becomes brave enough to perform in front of a crowd again—until he panics and freezes! Minette then joins him and helps him regain his confidence—as well as a new protégé.

This was such an amazing story about a girl who conquered both her own fear as well as helped a man conquer his—who found a love of something extraordinary and wouldn’t let anything come between her and her dream. I love that she is the hero of the story, and that she is able to overcome every obstacle with her own determination. While it’s sort of a rags to riches story, it’s also simply one of a girl with a dream who knows she can do it, no matter what an expert even tells her. This is a theme we often encounter from stories about boys with their teachers but not with girls (except maybe Million Dollar Baby, which didn’t end very well), so that made it even more refreshing to read and enjoy.