Knopf, 2006 (2004)
Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke
eminiscent 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 (
) had not uttered a word since her mother's death when she was a baby - it happened at the end of a performance of
, when it is said that Claire-de-Lune's ballerina mother, La Lune (
), died of a broken heart.
lair-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
force of '
love and friendship
', which she believes caused her daughter's death. Though they are poor, Madame Nuit demands
(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
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.
onaventure, 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
. 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.
ike 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
as a book to be cherished - while aimed at middle school and younger readers, it can be enjoyed by all ages.
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