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Kate DiCamillo – The Tale of Despereaux

August 24, 2008

103. The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo (2003)

Length: 272 pages

Genre: Childrens’ Fantasy

Started: 24 August 2008
Finished: 24 August 2008

Summary: Despereaux Tilling, the mouse, is just not quite right. He was born with his eyes open, he doesn’t grow properly but has enormous ears, and most importantly, he doesn’t behave like a mouse should: he doesn’t scurry, isn’t afraid, would rather read books than nibble at the paper and glue, and he commits the outrageous offense of talking to Princess Pea, a human! For his un-mouse-like behavior, he is sentenced to be thrown in the dungeons to be eaten by rats. One of these rats, Chiaroscuro, has a craving for light but stays in the dark dungeons, plotting a revenge against the Princess, a revenge that involves Miggery Sow, an abused scullery maid who dreams of being a princess herself. Can Despereaux, the unlikeliest of heroes, escape from the dungeons and save the princess?

Review: What a lovely, sweet little book! I probably would have never picked it up if I hadn’t seen the trailer for the upcoming movie (see the “Links” section below), but I would have been seriously missing out. It’s a charming fable, and although the narration talks to its audience (lots of “Dear reader” asides), it doesn’t talk down to them, making it enjoyable for adults as well as for children. I was a little surprised – and a lot impressed – by how this book doesn’t shy away from or sugar-coat the darker aspects of the story; the light and dark are equally present, and equally important. The writing is geared towards a fairly young audience, but DiCamillo respects her young readers, as I think is obvious in the quote “Everything, as you well know (having lived in this world long enough to have figured out a thing or two for yourself), cannot always be sweetness and light.” (p. 183). None of this is to say that this book is gloomy or depressing; far from it, this book celebrates hope and courage and kindness and forgiveness, but it also makes the point that some amount of darkness is always going to be present, and that it should make us appreciate the light all that much more. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: A quick-reading, well-written, original, and wholly enjoyable children’s fantasy. Read it with your favorite kid, or just for yourself… it’s well worth it. Highly recommended.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Links: The Tale of Despereaux is being made into a movie. You can see the trailer on YouTube, here. It looks very cute, although the trailer is almost exclusively from the first 20 pages, and extrapolates and adds from what’s in the book.

Other Reviews: Maw Books Blog, Stuff as Dreams are Made on, Becky’s Book Reviews

First Line: This story begins within the walls of a castle, with the birth of a mouse.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2008 5:23 pm

    I enjoyed this as well. Nice Review!

  2. September 4, 2008 8:58 am

    Thanks! I’m glad I decided to nab this one from the library… if it weren’t for the movie trailer, I would have totally missed it!

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