Mira’s Diary: Lost in Paris

Posted February 01, 2017  | Written by PJ Our Way Team

 

Ages

Jewish Content and Values

Positive Role Models:

Content Advisory:

What the Book is About:

Mira is about to start junior high school, but there’s one big problem: her mother has been missing for months! Mira’s father has complete faith that she will return soon, but when he receives a mysterious postcard from Paris, he decides to travel there with Mira and her older brother, Malcolm, to search for clues. During their visit to the Notre Dame Cathedral, a creepy looking stone gargoyle catapults Mira into the past and we learn that she has inherited her mother’s gift for time travel. Now in Paris in 1881, Mira catches glimpses of her lost mother and meets famous nineteenth century French artists like Degas, Mary Cassatt, and Renoir. She becomes involved in the trial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, tries to fight anti-Semitism, and inspires the famous writer, Émile Zola, to write his "J’accuse" article in support of Dreyfus. This fun and informative time travel diary includes charming pencil sketches and doodled notes.



 

 

 

Jewish Content and Values

  • While in Paris, Mira and her family stay in a hotel in the Jewish Ghetto and Mira travels back in time to witness a virulently anti-Semitic mob who come to watch the demotion of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish French army officer falsely accused of treason. A well-researched author's note at the conclusion of the book offers more details about the infamous Dreyfus Affair and this fascinating historical period.

Positive Role Models

  • Mira is a plucky character who is deeply dismayed by intolerance and the ugly displays of anti-Semitism that she encounters. She tries her best to help Dreyfus and to look after her mother.
  • Émile Zola was an admirable human being, risking everything to support the cause of truth. After he wrote "J’accuse", he was sued for libel and was financially ruined; he was even forced to leave France. It is suspected that he was murdered for speaking out against military corruption.

Content Advisory

Some kids might be disturbed by the fact that Mira’s mother has been missing for several months and then refuses to even acknowledge Mira when they finally do meet in the past. Some readers could also be offended when Mira, a Jewish girl, lights a candle at the Notre Dame Cathedral and prays for her mother’s safe return home. There are some blatant displays of vicious anti-Semitism, and Mira and Claude (Degas' apprentice) share a few light romantic moments.

Topics to Discuss

Mira really likes Degas and she falls in love with his lifelike sculpture of the ballet dancer. But then she hears him saying terrible things about Jewish people. How do you think this changed their friendship? Do you think it also changed how Mira felt about Degas' art?

More for You

Camille Pissarro, a Jewish-Danish-French Impressionist Master, lived in France in the nineteenth century. His paintings often featured outdoor scenes in natural light, and Emile Zola, a noted art critic, writer, and defender of Dreyfus, was a great fan of his work. Although few of Pissaro’s paintings sold during his lifetime, today his art is worth millions.