Marcel Marceau: Master of Mime

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
Little Marcel grows up in Strasbourg, on the border between France and Germany, fascinated with the silent film star Charlie Chaplin. He, too, wants to use only his gestures and the medium of silence to make people laugh and cry. But Hitler intervenes when the boy is 16, and Marcel becomes part of the French Resistance, helping to forge identification cards for Jewish children and even leading small groups, dressed as boy scouts, to safety in Switzerland. At the end of World War II, Marcel is able to study the ancient art of mime—and for the next sixty years performs around the world. This whimsical biography, with its dark notes of oppression and war, reminds readers of the power of dreams and the importance of practice and persistence. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum
School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—Readers are introduced to the world-famous reviver of the lost art of mime in this attractive and accessible picture-book biography. Melding Marceau's childhood and evolution as an artist with world events, Spielman reveals how the young son of a kosher butcher in Strasbourg, France, pursued his dream, despite the Nazi invasion in 1939. After his father took him to see a silent Charlie Chaplin film when he was five, "The boy was fascinated that the actor could make his audience laugh and cry without ever speaking a word. Marcel decided he would grow up to be like Charlie." After his city was evacuated, he and his older brother were sent to study art in Limoges, the center of the French Resistance. There, he used his artistic talent to doctor children's identification cards. He also led groups of Jewish children to the safety of the Swiss border; one illustration shows him with a group of young charges on a train singing heartily as a clueless Nazi soldier claps enthusiastically. After his father was sent to Auschwitz, he went to a children's home outside of Paris, where he taught art and drama. At age 20, a famous actor and director saw him perform and encouraged him to study drama. After the war, he perfected his trademark character, a role he played for the next 60 years. The final spread includes color and black-and-white photographs of the performer as Bip. Gauthier's childlike mixed-media illustrations feature myriad rosy-cheeked characters and capture both the whimsy of Marceau's performances and the more somber conditions of war-torn France.—Barbara Auerbach, PS 217, Brooklyn, NY
Pamela Paul
…as a read-aloud for older children who will tolerate the format, and with sufficient background information from those versed in the history, the book works, largely on the strength of its remarkable subject and striking visuals.
—The New York Times
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
As a child, Marcel Marceau enjoys dressing up and performing. A fan of silent movies, he remembers the magic of silence into adulthood. When World War I begins, he and his family must leave their Strasbourg home. Marcel studies art in Limoges, France. As the Nazis take over France and round up Jews, Marcel joins the Resistance and forges identity cards to save children. He also leads groups of children to safety in Switzerland. He continues to perform at a Children's Home. Spotted there, he is sent to study at a drama school, where he learns the almost forgotten art of mime. After the war, as the character Bip, he successfully revives the art of mime. Gautier's sketchy, mixed media illustrations exude innocence. The double-page scenes focus on the characters, and the background is illustrated sparingly. Two final pages show photographs of Bip in action and include explanatory notes that extend the story. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Kirkus Reviews

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)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761339625
  • Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/28/2011
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 809,187
  • Age range: 7 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 10.80 (h) x 0.20 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2011

    Heartwarming and informative

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2011

    This is an amazing story of the dangers Marcel Marceau had to face as a young man during WWI ...

    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.

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