What parents need to know
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.
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?
In Mira's Diary, Moss attempts to educate her target audience of 9- to 11-year-olds about very complex ideas surrounding the history of prejudice and scapegoatism, as well as illuminate 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.
Families can talk 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?