“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”
So we meet our heroine, Clair-de-Lune, who lives at the top of a very tall, very narrow, very old building with her Grandmother, Madame Nuit. Clair-de-Lune has not spoken a word since the night her mother, the great ballerina La Lune, died onstage…
“at the end of a tragic and beautiful ballet about swans, who, it is said, are mute until the very last moments of their lives, when they give forth the most lovely of all songs”
Do not be fooled, this is no ordinary ballet story. Indeed, it is no ordinary fairy-tale.
Clair-de-Lune lives a singular existence in the attic of the building with six floors, with two rickety staircases for each floor. Each morning she attends her dance class with Monsieur Dupoint three floors below, returns to the attic for lessons with Grandmother, then ventures out to the street “just outside” to buy what groceries her Grandmother can afford. It is a small, dark world, where there is never enough to eat, where she is intimidated by her classmates and her Grandmother, and where she cannot make her feelings heard, that encloses our Clair-de-Lune.
But it is a building full of secrets, and a building full of memory. And the day that Mr Sparrow, the class pianist, plays a song that awakens a long-forgotten feeling in Clair-de-Lune, a mysterious feeling that brings a flood of tears, the secrets begin to unravel. For while Clair-de-Lune cannot make a noise, there is a mouse who hears her silent sorrow.
And while Clair-de-Lune cannot speak, Bonaventure can speak for her. Great Bonaventure the dancing mouse takes Clair-de-Lune deep into a world within her tiny world, beneath the darkness and the secrets, where a monk may help the Moonlight ballerina find her voice.
In a touching, sometimes melancholy, beautifully crafted world, Cassandra Golds and her Clair-de-Lune reach out to every child who has ever felt different, lonely, and the utter despair of feeling there are too many things they cannot change. But for every exploration of grief, of guilt, of fear and loss, there is a resounding theme of love and the most wonderful of friends.
‘Few people,’ he remarked ‘appreciate the skill mice have attained in calligraphy!’
Indeed dear Bonaventure, few of us have.