Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Marcel Marceau: Master of Mime

Marcel Marceau: Master of Mime

Gloria Spielman
Illustrator:  Manon Gauthier 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 6 to 8
Lerner, 2011   ISBN: 978-0761339625

When Marcel Mangel was a little boy, his father took him to see a Charlie Chaplin movie. Marcel was amazed to see that the comic actor was able to make people laugh out loud even though he did not say a word. This uncanny ability made Marcel want to be just like Charlie, and he became a skilled mime who was beloved by the children who watched his antics.

In 1939 Marcel and his brother Alain left their home in Strasbourg and went to Limoges, where Marcel attended school and studied art. He was not able to enjoy this life for long though. By the summer of 1940, much of France was occupied, and the anti Jewish laws imposed by the Nazis were making life miserable for Jews like Marcel and Alain. The brothers began to work with the French Resistance, with Marcel specializing in creating forged travel documents for Jewish children. Several times he led groups of children to the Swiss border so that they could escape the Nazis. It was during this time, that he changed his last name, taking the name Marceau.

When Limoges became too dangerous for him, Marcel’s mother sent him to children’s home outside of Paris. Marcel kept on practicing his acting and mime techniques, teaching other children what he could about drama and art. Then, when Marcel was twenty, someone saw him performing and suggested that he should go to the drama school that was founded by a famous actor and director. Though the world was at war still, Marcel was finally on his way to becoming the performer that he had always dreamed of being.

These days not many people watch Charlie Chaplain’s movies, and therefore they cannot appreciate how funny and moving a good mime performance can be. In this book, Gloria Spielman tells the story of one of the world’s greatest mimes, showing her readers how brave Marcel Marceau was during the war years in Europe, and how committed he was to his craft. Young actors will find this story inspirational and motivational.