cover image Starring Mirette and Bellini

Starring Mirette and Bellini

Emily Arnold McCully. Putnam Publishing Group, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-399-22636-6

Mirette, the young French heroine who first charmed readers in McCully's Caldecott-winning Mirette on the High Wire, returns with more daring than ever in this politically charged sequel. The Great Bellini, the famous tightrope walker Mirette had befriended at her mother's boardinghouse, has invited her to be his wire-walking partner and teaches her all of his most spectacular routines. The amazing girl never loses her nerve, even while performing back flips and cartwheels more than 40 feet above the ground. But when the duo agrees to perform in St. Petersburg, Mirette comes face-to-face with a situation that frightens her more than any high-wire stunt. Bellini is imprisoned for speaking of freedom to the crowd of oppressed citizens, and Mirette's greatest test of courage will be to help her friend. McCully's turn-of-the-century Europe is ripe with old-world flavor. With her watercolor depictions of Russia's imposing architecture and heavily bundled peasants crowded into snowy streets and courtyards, McCully evokes a tense period in world history. Likewise, her scenes of activists discussing the cause of the people in dimly lit though well-appointed homes offer an insider's view of impending change. McCully wisely refrains from using specific dates or names in her fictionalized account and speaks of universal issues-hunger, hopelessness, hard times, freedom-that many children will grasp. An ambitious and satisfying work. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)