We are delighted to join the Nonfiction Picture Book meme 2020 hosted by Alyson Beecher @ Kid Lit Frenzy. We would also be linking our nonfiction choices with our reading themes throughout the year, when we can.
Madame Saqui: Revolutionary Rope Dancer (Amazon | Book Depository)
Written by Lisa Robinson Illustrated by Rebecca Green
Published by Schwartz & Wade Books (2020)
ISBN: 0525579974 (ISBN13: 9780525579977). Borrowed from Overdrive. Book photos taken by me.
Marguerite-Antoinette Lalanne was born in France in the late 1700s. She lived a hand-to-mouth existence with her family who earned a living by staging circus performances, mainly tightrope walking. When her father, Navarin the Great, fell and became ill, he decided that it was time to find a less dangerous way of feeding his family.
However, it was already too late for little Marguerite, who already heard the call of the wild. Set against the backdrop of the French revolution, Marguerite staged her own tiny revolution by defying her parents’ wishes. She learned tightrope walking from an old family friend, which inspired her family to return to performing, despite the considerable risks.
I enjoyed seeing how Marguerite’s family considered performing as their little contribution to society – a way to provide entertainment to people suffering from poverty and who were hungry to liberate themselves from leaders who cared very little about their well-being. It also came as no surprise to me that Marguerite (who later became known as Madame Saqui when she married Julien Saqui, an acrobat) became very famous and received the patronage of Napoleon himself.
What attracted me the most about the story, however, is how Madame Saqui refused to be be defined by people’s expectations of her. She proceeded headlong, feet up in the air, to do what she does best, even until she was in her seventies. In the Author’s Note, Lisa Robinson shared:
Madame Saqui pursued her passion for rope dancing at a time when society imposed many constraints on women. Although women have practiced this perilous art for hundreds of years, most famous wire walkers are men, such as Charles Blondin, who crossed Niagara Falls on a wire, and Philippe Petit, who walked between New York’s Twin Towers. Madame Saqui achieved international fame before these men were born.
Yet, what a shame that it is only now that most people are hearing about her story. Get to know Madame Saqui, and be emboldened to stage little revolutions of your own, with panache and grace of course.