Posted by: teachergirl | May 7, 2009

The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux. The Tale of Despereaux
Kate DiCamillo
Illus. by Timothy Basil Ering.
Cambridge: Candlewick Press, 2003.
Newbery Medal 2004.
Fantasy.
AR Level: 4.7

The Tale of Despereaux is about three characters who don’t fit in the world in which they were born.  Despereaux, a tiny mouse living in a castle, works against odds to save his love, the Princess Pea, a human.  She has been captured and taken to the dungeon by the rat Roscuro, and the servant girl Miggery Sow.

Despereaux is not a light-hearted story, but explores real emotions—love, real danger—getting one’s tail chopped off, and real villians—Roscuro.  The narrator has an ongoing dialog with the reader which draws the reader into the story, asking opinions and giving understanding.  For example, “Reader, do you believe in such a thing as happy endings?  Or, like Despereaux, have you, too, begun to question the possibility of happy endings?”  Though a highly dramatic story, much comic relief is provided, especially with the repeated references to Roscuro with a spoon for a crown and his red tablecloth cape.  I’ve never been moved to tears by a children’s book before, but DiCamillo has written a profound story that speaks to the hearts of children and adults alike; it is a must-read.

I am a little disappointed that a movie is being made about this book.  I don’t think there’s anyway to capture  the emotion of Despereaux without DiCamillo’s whimsical prose.  Beware of the junior novelization version.  It’s already a book for children; I don’t understand why Scholastic thought it necessary to write a “dumbed-down” version.

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