Mira’s Diary: Lost in Paris

September 2012


When Mira receives a cryptic postcard from her missing mother, she sets off with her father and brother to find her in Paris. Only Mira doesn’t know she’s looking in the wrong century. With an innocent touch to a gargoyle sculpture on the roof of Notre Dame, Mira is whisked into the past. There she learns her mother isn’t just avoiding the family, she’s in serious trouble. Following her mother’s clues, Mira travels through time to help change history and bring her mother home.

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“Mira’s Diary: Lost in Paris is a delight! Part mystery, part historical fiction, part time-travel fantasy, and part art history, this page-turner also introduces an important moment in the history of human rights, the Dreyfus Affair. Bringing painful topics to children in age-appropriate ways is a special art — one that Marissa Moss has mastered well. Like Christopher Paul Curtis (author of The Watsons Go to Birmingham, 1963 and Elijah of Buxton) has done with racism, she has found a way to introduce Anti-Semitism to children with an engaging story and gentle humor. In With Love From Paris, she has given us a book that is not just a “great read” but also an important reminder to be vigilant against prejudice and intolerance in any form.” Marcia Lovelace, Librarian, Tehiyah Day School

“Mira’s Diary: Lost in Paris” is a passionate celebration of honor and integrity. Anyone interested in history, mystery, and art will be riveted by Mira’s courageous journey back through time to in search of justice. Long after I finished this fast paced and compelling novel, I thought about Mira. Would I be as determined in pursuit of truth and tolerance? Would you?” Karen Cushman, Newbery Medal Winner

“This book combines history, mystery, science fiction, a wonderful introduction to Impressionism, and the personal story of a 14-year-old girl, Mira, who learns that she has responsibilities beyond her immediate needs for friends and even romance. Plunked down into late 19th century Paris, Mira is transformed from a normal teenager, angry with her mother for suddenly disappearing, to a young woman who must solve a big problem. In the process, she learns for herself how historical events transform people, destroying friendships and creating heroes. Moss’s descriptions make 19th century Paris come alive. Readers feel the excitement of that new invention, electricity, when it was used to light Paris’s final Impressionist exhibit in 1881. Artistic figures of the age — including Degas, Cassatt, and Zola — become real people with warmth, humor, and flaws. And, alarmingly, readers learn how the commonplace antisemitism of the 1880s, with the 1894 Dreyfus Affair as catalyst, makes it possible for individuals to cut off ties with Jewish friends, for mobs to scream “Kill the Jews!,” and for a nation to ignore the truth and victimize a minority figure. Moss uses the separate “Author’s Note” not only to fill in details of history, but also to point out that “this kind of thing could still happen today, in this country. Maybe not to a Jew, but to a Muslim….” The story is especially apt in today’s politically divided America.” Jean Stein, Library Coordinator, People of the Book Literacy Project

“Readers find themselves lost with Mira in a labyrinth of time where her every move can inexorably alter future events. Let Moss’s charming illustrations be your guide as you race headlong to a conclusion that brilliantly fuses history and mystery.” Sue Stauffacher, author of Donuthead

“Her mother’s mysterious absence, a perplexing postcard and a unique family ability sends Mira on a race through time. A trip to France with her father and brother in search of her mother becomes a fateful odyssey for Mira when she is abruptly transported to Paris circa 1881. Mira is shocked to find out she can travel through time, a talent she has inherited from her mother. She also discovers that her mother has travelled into the past on a quest for justice for Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish military officer wrongly accused of a crime, and needs Mira’s help. A series of letters from her mother guides Mira as she visits various moments in time between 1881 and 1899. Mira’s encounters with anti-Semitism during her investigation further compel her to seek out the truth. While striving to unravel the secrets surrounding Dreyfus’ trial, Mira becomes involved in the lives of several Impressionist artists and, of course, writer Emile Zola. With vividly detailed descriptions, Moss deftly recounts Mira’s journey among the backdrop of historical events and people. Moss’ thought-provoking tale examines the devastating effects of prejudice and intolerance; in her author’s note, she gives more background on the Dreyfus Affair and Zola’s “J’Accuse.” A surprise ending will leave readers anticipating Mira’s next mission as she follows her mother through time and history.” (bibliography) (Fantasy. 10-14) Kirkus Reviews

“Moss (the Amelia’s Notebook series) offers an engrossing, diary-style blend of history, mystery, and time travel. Fourteen-year-old Mira’s mother has been missing for six months when the family receives a cryptic postcard from her, postmarked from Paris. Awash in a flood of emotion, Mira, her father, and her older brother head to the City of Light in hopes of a reunion. Amid their search for clues, Mira is transported to 1881 Paris, where she befriends Edgar Degas, his young assistant, Emile Zola, and Mary Cassatt–and sees her mother. Moss’s tale, illustrated by Mira’s sketches, toggles between the present and the 19th century, as Mira tries to understand her trip through time and is swept up in machinations surrounding the infamous Dreyfus Affair. Moss’s careful attention to the Dreyfus case and the anti-Semitism that spurred it is laudable, as are the descriptions of the art movements (and artists) of the time. The arrival of a second postcard points to a sequel, and a thorough author’s note provides information on Paris, Dreyfus, and Impressionist artists. Ages 9-up.” Publishers Weekly