Select one of the keywords
Clair-de-Lune    by Cassandra Golds order for
by Cassandra Golds
Order:  USA  Can
Knopf, 2006 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Reminiscent of fairy tales of old, this winsome story of a young ballerina and a talking mouse named Bonaventure begins, 'Once upon a time - one hundred years ago, and half as many years again - there lived a girl called 'Clair-de-Lune', who could not speak.' Claire-de-Lune (Moonlight) had not uttered a word since her mother's death when she was a baby - it happened at the end of a performance of The Swan, when it is said that Claire-de-Lune's ballerina mother, La Lune (Moon), died of a broken heart.

Clair-de-Lune lives with her grandmama, Madame Nuit, in the attic of an old, odd-shaped building. Grandmama is strict and stern, trying to protect her granddaughter from the destructive force of 'love and friendship', which she believes caused her daughter's death. Though they are poor, Madame Nuit demands gentilesse (good manners and behavior). Claire-de-Lune's schedule is full from Monday to Saturday, beginning each morning with ballet master Monsieur Dupoint, whose studio is three floors down from the attic. Dupoint favors Clair-de-Lune as he used to perform with her mother. This adds to the animosity of other dance students, who call her a snob for not speaking to them. In the afternoons, Clair-de-Lune studies geography, history, and languages. Each day, she shops for grandmama in the food courts, and sometimes earns a little money doing errands for other tenants.

Bonaventure, a talking mouse who dreams of founding a 'dancing school for mice', befriends Clair-de-Lune. Beyond a hidden, stone doorway within the odd building, Bonaventure escorts Claire-de-Lune to a world like no other. He takes her to meet Brother Inchmahome, whose eyes 'always seemed to be looking at the most beautiful thing in the world', and who encourages her to discover why she cannot speak, and most of all to listen. Clair-de-Lune always felt something missing - which the author portrays as a magical bird with a red-gold heart, mysteriously out of reach. Brother Inchmahome pays a visit to Madame Nuit, convincing grandmama to allow Clair-de-Lune to meet with him daily for instruction in 'Expression of the Soul'. He helps her learn that it is appropriate to establish friendships and to love. Slowly her heart begins to unburden - 'she felt that just a little of the weight on her heart, the weight of things unsaid, would be lifted.'

Like her young heroine, Cassandra Golds was taught ballet as a girl. Her tale of a mute ballerina and a talking mouse is written with expressive emotion - as stirring as a gentle sea breeze, as flowing as a whispering, winding stream. Underlying her words are sacrifice and joy, hope and revelation, triumph over adversity, and finding the will to be true to oneself. I recommend Clair-de-Lune as a book to be cherished - while aimed at middle school and younger readers, it can be enjoyed by all ages.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Teens books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews