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The legendary mime is introduced to a new generation, though not entirely successfully.
As a child, Marceau loved to silently entertain his friends, like his idol, Charlie Chaplin. During the Nazi occupation of France, Marcel and his brother took on new identities in the French Underground, where they forged documents for Jewish children and helped many to escape to Switzerland. Spielman assumes that her young audience will understand references to deportation and concentration camps; unfortunately for those that don't, her matter-of-fact tone speaks more of adventure than deadly peril. Her tone subtly changes when she lovingly describes Marceau's training and development as a mime and his stage persona of Bip the clown, admiring his skills in the "art of silence" that won him international renown. But here too, comparisons to the Little Tramp and Pierrot may be outside readers' frame of reference. Though the illustrations carefully complement the textual content with period details, Gauthier's cartoon faces are all nearly identical, with only the screen image of Chaplin and Marceau's Bip having distinctive features. A double-page spread at the conclusion provides photographs of Bip in action and is the only clear indication of Marceau's stagecraft.
At its best when the emphasis is on the skill and artistry of Mime's most accomplished practitioner—alas, too much of the book looks elsewhere.(Picture book/biography. 8-10)
Posted December 14, 2011
Growing up watching The Ed Sullivan Show, I knew nothing about Marcel Marceau's World War II experiences. Spielman's text and Gauthier's illustrations combine to share not only historical information, but also the lesson that communication comes in many forms.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 7, 2011
Marcel smiled as he searched his father's wardrobe for an outfit he could borrow. When he donned his father's jacket, pants, shoes and hat, he was no longer a boy, he was "Charlie Chaplin, star of the silent movies". Ladies in the streets of Strasbourg would smile and clasp their hands in front of their chests in awe of his budding talent. Marcel's father had taken him to see one of Chaplin's movies and the impression was so strong, it was at that point he decided he "would grow up to be like Charlie." Other children were in awe of him and loved to see him perform, but the winds of war were stirring and happy times would soon change to times of fear and dread.
Hitler "had come to power in Germany and wanted to rule the rest of Europe." Strasbourg was evacuated by the French Government and Marcel and his older brother found a safe haven in Limoges, "a center of French Resistance." As a Jew, Marcel began to use his drawing skills to alter the identification cards of young people so they "would seem to be too young to be sent to labor camps." Marcel did a few alterations of his own and his last name became Marceau. He began to take children to the Swiss border in order to save him from the Nazis. His newly formed boy scout troops were on their way to a fictitious camp. Marcel had a new life smuggling children out of France, but was he ever going to be able to live his dream of becoming another Charlie Chaplin? Would he even survive the war?
This is an amazing story of the dangers Marcel Marceau had to face as a young man during WWII. Many people have heard the silence of Marcel, but have never heard the story of his struggles during the war. The story is one of bravery, struggle, and one of the heartwarming tale of his work in the French resistance. The artwork is simple, but speaks volumes as it intertwines with the tale. If the reader simply flips the pages after reading the story, one can silently listen to the story of Marcel's early years. In the back of the book is a brief commentary on his career and a four photograph portrait of him practicing his craft as Bip. This is an unusually well crafted biography for the intended age group (9-12) you really should consider adding to your library or classroom shelves!
This book courtesy of the publisher.