February 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Pick of the Day: Monsieur Marceau: Actor Without Words

Book cover: Monsieur MarceauSCHUBERT, Leda. Monsieur Marceau: Actor Without Words. illus. by Gérard DuBois. 40p. further reading. notes. photos. CIP. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter. Sept. 2012. RTE $17.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-529-2. LC 2011033798.
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