Mira's Diary: Lost in Paris

Book review by
Barbara Schultz, Common Sense Media
Mira's Diary: Lost in Paris Book Poster Image
Ambitious time-travel tale covers edgy French history, art.

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Educational Value

Mira goes back to 19th-century Paris, visiting different dates between 1881 and 1899. She becomes involved in trying to change widely held anti-Semitic attitudes surrounding the Dreyfus Affair, and that chapter in French history is explained in age-appropriate detail. Mira encounters French artists and writers of the time, including Edgar Degas, Auguste Rodin, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Claude Monet, Emile Zola, and American expat Mary Cassat. Readers will learn about 19th-century French art, culture, politics, and ways of life, as well as Paris geography and architecture. The novel explores the history of anti-Semitism and relates religious bigotry to racial bigotry in the United States. Mira also compares what she learns about the corrupt actions of Parisian officials to what she knows about the American Watergate scandal of 1973-74.

Positive Messages

The book takes an honest look at the history of anti-Semitism in France and the injustice of prejudice in general, comparing it to racial prejudice in the United States and putting the French people's beliefs in context for young American readers. The novel shows the cruelty and injustice behind bigotry and shows how individuals who stand up for justice can make a difference.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mira is helped and guided by her parents and older brother, but her most powerful role model is the author Emile Zola, who changes public opinion with his courageous writings, exposing the corruptness of the French military and showing how Alfred Dreyfus was wrongly accused of treason.


When Madame Lefoutre grabs Mira, Mira strikes her with a parasol. Later, Mira is caught up in a riot in the streets, where citizens call for Dreyfus to be executed; Mira is pushed and elbowed and feels afraid. In the present day, Mira learns that the elderly Zola suffocated to death, and that it might have been deliberately caused.


In the 1880s, Mira meets a teen about her age named Claude, and she develops a crush. A couple of times, she moves in for him to kiss her on the lips, but he doesn't take the bait, and she's disappointed.


In one chapter, Jews are called "kikes."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Mira's Diary: Lost in Paris is by Marissa Moss, author of the popular Amelia's Notebook series. Mira, 14, goes to Paris with her family to find her missing mother and ends up time traveling (a gift she shares with her mother) to 1881 Paris in the midst of the Dreyfus Affair: the framing of a Jewish army captain for treason. The novel explores the history of anti-Semitism and relates religious bigotry to racial bigotry in the United States. Mira's Diary delves into some complex and upsetting subjects while staying on a fourth- or fifth-grade level. But young readers might still need some guidance, and sensitive kids may be disturbed by the public's violent outcry to punish Dreyfus. Also of note: Mira hears some harsh anti-Semitic language (in one chapter, Jews are called "kikes"), and she longs for her first kiss.

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What's the story?

MIRA'S DIARY: LOST IN PARIS is a fantastical/historical novel by Marissa Moss, author of the popular Amelia's Notebook series. The intrigue begins when a mysterious postcard from Paris arrives, prompting Mira, her father, and her brother go there in hopes of finding Mira's missing mother. Once there, Mira discovers that she, like her mother, has a gift for time traveling, and she's transported to 1881 Paris around the time of the Dreyfus Affair (when a Jewish army captain was scapegoated and wrongly accused of treason). Mira befriends several artistic and literary luminaries of the time and tries to persuade author Emile Zola to use his influence to expose the conspiracy and injustice behind Dreyfus' conviction. Along the way, 14-year-old Mira learns a great deal about French history, art, politics, and geography.

Is it any good?

Moss succeeds in educating her target tween audience about very complex ideas surrounding the history of prejudice and scapegoatism, as well as illuminating an important French artistic period. Not only is she successful in these lofty goals, but she also creates an engaging plot involving a blend of real and fictional characters, all of whom are quite well-rendered. Readers may internalize this novel by degrees; some kids may find the Dreyfus plot difficult to follow. But all will learn quite a bit and will identify with Mira's predicament and feelings.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what a scapegoat is. Why did Albert Dreyfus, who was Jewish, become one?

  • How does Mira's Diary: Lost in Paris compare with the Amelia's Notebook series? How are they alike, and how are they different?

  • What talents help Mira achieve her goals in 19th-century Paris?

Book details

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For kids who love history

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