Talking to the Moon
Talking to the Moon
Rainbows are like the good families in stories. All the colors are separate but together, giving each other just-right personal space. In my two foster families before Muzzy, I was always floating free in my own entire solar system of personal space. Like a falling star.
My teacher, Miss Matattall, told me I'm on the autism spectrum, which is not something pretty like a rainbow spectrum. It's more a fancy word teachers made up to describe left-out kids like me.
Muzzy says my brain's just bigger than most people's. That I am marching to the beat of my own drum.
She says that as if it's a Like, but she's wrong. And I play the piano, not drums.
Other kids mostly make fun of me; they whisper and laugh at my grouchy old-lady face.
Whispering and laughing are two of my Dislikes.
"Almost. And my name is Katie."
I finish arranging my folded underwear in my suitcase, a row of black lined up on top of all the white, like piano keys. On top of those I put the bookmark Moonbeam left for me. On the front it says: `Elizabeth Books, Montague Street, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia', and on the back, in messy writing, it says:
Every time you see the Moon, know that I'll be thinking of you, Katie.
Take good care of our Lavender Lady.
I'll tell you her story when I come back for you.
Katie Dupuis Pearson is, as she will tell you on very short acquaintance, very smart, very good at math and playing the piano, very bad at imagining, and on the autism spectrum. This last readers would have guessed by the end of page one anyway as Katie ties together very precisely her birthday, the day of her mother Moonbeam's disappearance, and the birth of Sir Isaac Newton, the first person to unweave the rainbow. This last bit of information is because colours are important for Katie -- she has a subscription for coloured pencils which sends her 25 new precisely named pencils each month. When the subscription finishes, she will have 500 hundred pencils and the vocabulary to describe exactly any colour she encounters. She takes great satisfaction in meeting someone with Touch-of-Gold white hair and getting into her foster mother's Sea-Captain blue car.
Katie has very strong Likes -- the Moon, because he listens, though she'd like it if he'd answer, peanut butter -- and Dislikes -- hugging, surprises, mean kids -- but what she really would like is Roots because she hasn't any. Her mother vanished on her fourth birthday, leaving her a book mark and a name. Period. She is now onto her third foster mother, the best 'so far', but nothing is for sure, nothing is permanent, and she knows that when Muzzy, an enthusiastic journalist, finally gets the foreign assignment that she has been longing for, she, Katie, will be back on the agency's hands. However, in the meantime, Muzzy has the summer off, and they are going to Lunenberg, where Katie's Moonbeam book mark came from and where Muzzy was raised, to help a friend who runs a café there.
Adventures are another of Katie's Dislikes, but this one turns out better than anyone, she, in particular, (being bad at imagining) could imagine. Not only does she meet a couple of kids her age who think she is funny rather than weird, but she gets a job helping Aggie, an elderly woman who used to teach her Muzzy and who has bits of never-mailed letters of an ancestor who came to Lunenberg in the 18th century. And some mementos. And some stories. Discovering Catherine's story of being uprooted helps Katie to come to terms with her own lack of roots as does helping Aggie reestablish her family connection with her estranged sister.
It's hard to pinpoint the charm of this book. Partly it is Katie, herself, her precision and her colour sense, her need for her personal space; partly it is Catherine Marguerite's letters, or bits of them, that we get in fits and starts, finding out about how life was back when, and partly it is the mystery of Katie's background that the reader will probably figure out before Katie, herself, does. All in all, Talking to the Moon is a book with a mystery, an interesting protagonist, and good backround material. It also has a moral: don't despair over information that you have only heard as an eavesdropper; you may have it, or its context, completely wrong!
Mary Thomas lives in Winnipeg, Manitoba, but spends the summers in Bracebridge, Ontario, and would like Katie's palate of pencils to describe the multitude of different greens she sees when kayaking up the Muskoka River.