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The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread Hardcover – August 25, 2003


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 2 - 5
  • Lexile Measure: 670L (What's this?)
  • Series: Tale of Despereaux
  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; 1st ed edition (August 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763617229
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763617226
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (723 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #130,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Kate DiCamillo, author of the Newbery Honor book Because of Winn-Dixie, spins a tidy tale of mice and men where she explores the "powerful, wonderful, and ridiculous" nature of love, hope, and forgiveness. Her old-fashioned, somewhat dark story, narrated "Dear Reader"-style, begins "within the walls of a castle, with the birth of a mouse." Despereaux Tilling, the new baby mouse, is different from all other mice. Sadly, the romantic, unmouselike spirit that leads the unusually tiny, large-eared mouse to the foot of the human king and the beautiful Princess Pea ultimately causes him to be banished by his own father to the foul, rat-filled dungeon.

The first book of four tells Despereaux's sad story, where he falls deeply in love with Princess Pea and meets his cruel fate. The second book introduces another creature who differs from his peers--Chiaroscuro, a rat who instead of loving the darkness of his home in the dungeon, loves the light so much he ends up in the castle& in the queen's soup. The third book describes young Miggery Sow, a girl who has been "clouted" so many times that she has cauliflower ears. Still, all the slow-witted, hard-of-hearing Mig dreams of is wearing the crown of Princess Pea. The fourth book returns to the dungeon-bound Despereaux and connects the lives of mouse, rat, girl, and princess in a dramatic denouement.

Children whose hopes and dreams burn secretly within their hearts will relate to this cast of outsiders who desire what is said to be out of their reach and dare to break "never-to-be-broken rules of conduct." Timothy Basil Ering's pencil illustrations are stunning, reflecting DiCamillo's extensive light and darkness imagery as well as the sweet, fragile nature of the tiny mouse hero who lives happily ever after. (Ages 9 and older) --Karin Snelson

From School Library Journal

Grade 3 Up-A charming story of unlikely heroes whose destinies entwine to bring about a joyful resolution. Foremost is Despereaux, a diminutive mouse who, as depicted in Ering's pencil drawings, is one of the most endearing of his ilk ever to appear in children's books. His mother, who is French, declares him to be "such the disappointment" at his birth and the rest of his family seems to agree that he is very odd: his ears are too big and his eyes open far too soon and they all expect him to die quickly. Of course, he doesn't. Then there is the human Princess Pea, with whom Despereaux falls deeply (one might say desperately) in love. She appreciates him despite her father's prejudice against rodents. Next is Roscuro, a rat with an uncharacteristic love of light and soup. Both these predilections get him into trouble. And finally, there is Miggery Sow, a peasant girl so dim that she believes she can become a princess. With a masterful hand, DiCamillo weaves four story lines together in a witty, suspenseful narrative that begs to be read aloud. In her authorial asides, she hearkens back to literary traditions as old as those used by Henry Fielding. In her observations of the political machinations and follies of rodent and human societies, she reminds adult readers of George Orwell. But the unpredictable twists of plot, the fanciful characterizations, and the sweetness of tone are DiCamillo's own. This expanded fairy tale is entertaining, heartening, and, above all, great fun.
Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Kate DiCamillo is the author of The Magician's Elephant, a New York Times bestseller; The Tale of Despereaux, which was awarded the Newbery Medal; Because of Winn-Dixie, a Newbery Honor book; and six books starring Mercy Watson, including the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride. She lives in Minneapolis.

Customer Reviews

Despereaux falls in love with the Princess Pea.
l.olson
I really like the way the author talks to her audience and makes the reader feel like she's written the story just for them.
K. Price
You will enjoy reading this book aloud as much as your students will enjoy listening to it.
LonestarReader

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

233 of 249 people found the following review helpful By bensmomma on January 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading this one out loud to my daughter (5 years old) and it was a HUGE hit, even though I think it was really meant for older kids who can read it on their own. It is the story of a lonely little mouse, rejected by his family, who falls in love with the young Princess who rules the castles in which he lives.
Here are some reasons we really liked the book:
1) DiCamillo is a true romantic; Despereaux the mouse loves Pea the Princess with a love that is overwhelming and courtly (like a medieval knight), a love that makes him want to be a better person. At the same time, the author is not afraid to toss in some real Adventure and even Peril - the mouse must brave the dungeon, its murderous clan of rats, and a sad but frightening orphan girl named Miggery Sow who means to kidnap the princess and take her place. Scary enough to be exciting but not scary enough for nightmares.
2) Although DiCamillo's writing style is highly sophisticated, she stops along the way to explain the unusual and interesting words she uses ("perfidy," for one), so the book is comprehensible even to kids too young to read it themselves.
3) The illustrations are charming and many, to keep younger listeners/readers entertained. The chapters are also short enough to make good bed-time stories by themselves.
One caution though - although my 9-year-old son would have been able to tackle this on his own, the heavy romantic nature of the story (even though it's between a mouse and a girl) put him off. It's probably a much more appealing book to girls than boys. But even for some boys, the adventure will make it worth the while.
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106 of 112 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
My 6-year-old son and I love the complexity of the plot and the mouse and rat characters. But I want to issue a word of warning to parents of younger children. The abandonment and beating of the 6-year-old girl is brutal, and my son was quite upset by it. I'm not saying we should shield our children from all that is bad in the world, but the descriptions are so vivid, and the girl's world so bleak, that I was stunned as I read it aloud. My son was near tears. He had never known that adults exist who treat children so brutally, and I'm not sure I wanted him to know that at the tender age of 6. I am a writer myself, and I strongly believe in reality in literature, but we will continue reading the book only if he is sure he wants us to. I suggest reading these parts yourself before deciding to read this to your child.
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76 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Oddsfish VINE VOICE on April 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A few months ago, I read a little blurb about this novel, and I couldn't wait to read it. Then, it won the Newberry Award, and I finally got hold of a copy. It didn't disappoint. The Tale of Despereaux is one of the most enchanting little stories I've ever read, and I have a feeling it's going to go down as a true children's classic.
The story is so entrancing. It centers around a mouse named Despereaux who just doesn't fit in with the other mice. He is born with his eyes opened. He sees a beautiful world that the others are blind to, and he is shunned because of it. He is able to hear music, and he is able to love creatures of other races. For instance, this tiny mouse falls in love with the human Princess Pea, and that begins quite a chain of events.
Of course, not everything in the story is happy. There is also a dark world that the novel doesn't hide from. There are characters who have had little chance in life and have been harmed because of it. There are characters here who have lead dark lives and are trying to destroy Princess Pea and Despereaux. But, ultimately, this isn't a dark novel but one proclaiming a message about love and hope and the possibility of redemption. It is a beautiful little novel about having the courage to bring some light into the world. The Tale of Despereaux is an amazing novel for people of every age which will be read for an oftly long time.
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65 of 73 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 8, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I read to my kids every night though they are perfectly capable of reading to themselves. It's hard to find a book that appeals to both of them. This book does the job well. I have a boy age 9 and girl age 6 and they are both enthralled with it and eager to find out what happens next. With the short chapters and pictures scattered throughout, it makes it very easy to read a few chapters each night and yet keep us looking forward to the next night's reading. We also picked up this book because of its cover just like a previous reader. Love the look, the feel, the size of this book. It's a pleasure to read and we can't wait to find out how the story ends!
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By "cutiea" on January 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Read this!! Really, that's all I want to say to everyone when I tell them about this book. Desperaux, the tiny mouse with the big ears, broke my heart with his love, determination and courage. The twists and turns of the book are magical, lyrical and wonderful to discover. Every character is wonderfully written. Dicamillo's addressing of the reader, makes them feel as part of the story. All I wanted to do was find a group of children and read them this story, in the hushed, secretive tones it conveys. I will be reading this book over and over, to myself, my students and eventually my children. Most definitely deserving of the Newberry Award, and a classic for all time!
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