Monsieur Marceau: Actor Without Words


Marcel Marceau, the world's most famous mime, enthralled audiences around the world for more than fifty years. When he waved his hand or lifted his eyebrow he was able to speak volumes without ever saying a word. But few know the story of the man behind those gestures . . .


Distinguished author Leda Schubert and award-winning artist Gerard DuBois bring their own artistry to this gorgeously written and ...

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Marcel Marceau, the world's most famous mime, enthralled audiences around the world for more than fifty years. When he waved his hand or lifted his eyebrow he was able to speak volumes without ever saying a word. But few know the story of the man behind those gestures . . .


Distinguished author Leda Schubert and award-winning artist Gerard DuBois bring their own artistry to this gorgeously written and illustrated picture book biography.


Monsieur Marceau is a Kirkus Reviews Best Children's Book of 2012

Winner of the 2013 Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While some readers may know Marcel Marceau’s work, they are likely unaware of his WWII heroism. Schubert (The Princess of Borscht) places Marceau’s Jewish heritage at the heart of his art. As a young man in occupied France, Marceau helped Jewish children escape, hid U.S. parachutists, then changed his name from Mangel to Marceau to conceal his identity. “I am Jewish. Perhaps that, unconsciously, contributed towards my choice of silence,” Schubert quotes Marceau as saying. In the first half of the book, DuBois’s (Stories for Young People: Edgar Allan Poe) stately paintings pay homage to Marceau’s bravery. In the second, Schubert details Marceau’s phenomenal success (“He traveled the world—appearing on television and on stage, for presidents and princesses, kings and queens”), and DuBois’s portraits help explain mime to those unfamiliar with it (“He walks against the wind, but there is no wind”). Schubert gives depth and compassion to a performer whose art might otherwise be mistaken for clowning. One afterword provides more information about Marceau; another describes mime and supplies some easy exercises. Ages 4–8. Agent: Steven Chudney, the Chudney Agency. Illustrator’s agent: Marlena Agency. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
“…readers…will find plenty to admire in this picture book biography.”—Booklist, starred

"An exceptional life; a stunning achievement.”—Kirkus, starred

 "A noteworthy choice for all collections.”—School Library Journal, starred

"has so much...passion" —Horn Book


“Schubert gives depth and compassion to a performer whose art might otherwise be mistaken for clowning.” —Publishers Weekly

 "If young readers missed the opportunity to meet world-renowned mime Marcel Marceau in Gloria Spielman’s picture-book biography (Marcel Marceau, BCCB 10/11), here is a second chance." - BCCB

Children's Literature - Carlee Hallman
He was named Marcel Mangel when he was born in 1923 in Strasbourg, France. As a child he admired Charlie Chaplin and enjoyed miming for his friends. When he was a young man he resisted the Nazis and led Jewish children from an orphanage in France to Switzerland. He changed his name from Mangel to Marceau so people wouldn't know he was Jewish. After the war he studied mime and at twenty-four created his famous character Bip. He wore white face with a red mouth and sad eyes. A red carnation and a smashed top hat were part of his character. As a mime he didn't talk but acted out things like a tug of war, chasing butterflies, sadness, or joy. The pictures show him in costume. An afterword tells of his efforts in the French underground and fighting with the French resistance during World War II. Advice and suggestions for miming are listed. Children will enjoy learning about this famous mime and may try miming for themselves. Reviewer: Carlee Hallman
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—It is fitting that this superb picture-book biography is short on words and long on visuals. The spare text marvelously captures the essence of the artist, depicting a man whose choice to be silent was born of an awareness of the damages of war. Born in 1923 to a musical family who lived near the French/German border, Marceau idolized Charlie Chaplin and began emulating him at a young age. When World War II broke out, residents of Strasbourg were forced to leave their homes, and later Marceau joined the French Resistance. After the war, he changed his original surname, Mangel, to Marceau "so that people wouldn't know he was Jewish." Marceau studied mime and created the character Bip, whose smashed stovepipe hat, white makeup, red carnation, and sad eyes became known the world over. The stunning oil pastel paintings are as somber, joyful, and expressive as the man himself; they depict him fighting a bull, chasing butterflies, or crumbling in sadness. Covering much the same ground as Gloria Spielman's Marcel Marceau (Lerner, 2011) but in a more compelling manner, this exquisite book has an informative afterword and a page on the art of miming. A noteworthy choice for all collections.—Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
Audiences thrilled to his mesmerizing performances, in which he spoke through his expressive body without uttering a single word. Marceau was the world's most popular and beloved mime. Born in France, he grew up watching and imitating Charlie Chaplin, star of silent films. World War II intruded and turned the Jewish teen into a war hero. At war's end, he created Bip, his alter ego, who with makeup and costume "walks against the wind, but there is no wind." Schubert's spare text is both poetic and dramatic. DuBois's oil paintings are brilliantly executed and saturated, with textured nuances. Images of Marceau fly across the page, delighting the eye, while close-ups highlight his extraordinary facial expressions. Ordinary paper morphs into stage settings as Marceau dances against white or black backgrounds. One double-page spread depicts a costumed fish with sinuously expressive hands and feet. Another presents seven views of Marceau in movement, updating a series of views of Marceau as a child. The pages set during World War II, in contrast, are a somber palette. Don't turn the pages too quickly; rather stop and feel the joie de vivre with which the master filled people of all ages all over the world. An exceptional life; a stunning achievement. (afterword, source notes, further reading) (Picture book biography. 4-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596435292
  • Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
  • Publication date: 9/4/2012
  • Pages: 40
  • Sales rank: 326,406
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD740L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 11.10 (w) x 8.70 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Leda Schubert teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the author of the Roaring Brook Press titles The Princess of Borscht and Ballet of the Elephants. She lives in Plainfield, Vermont, with her husband and two dogs.

Gerard DuBois is a four-time Society of Illustrators Gold Medal winner whose work has appeared in such publications as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Time, The New Yorker, and in many books for both children and adults. He lives in Montreal with his wife and two children.

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Reading Group Guide

Common Core Standards

This discussion and activity guide was designed to help students meet reading standards for grade 3 (see below). Most questions and activities can be adapted to meet the standards for grade 2 or grade 4. Students might also meet a variety of writing standards with the activities, depending on the ways in which teachers assign activities and provide guidance.

Key Ideas and Details

* CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

* CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.2 Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

* CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.3 Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.

Craft and Structure

* CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

* CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story (e.g., create mood, emphasize aspects of a character or setting)

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