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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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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.
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As some reviewers have pointed out, there are some dark and sad elements to the story. There is loss and betrayal and cruelty. If you are uncomfortable exposing your kids to that, you might want to read this yourself before reading it to them, and think about how you will talk about those things. But there is also courage and forgiveness and kindness, and a lot of heart. You should be prepared to take your kids on a deeper emotional and moral journey than you'll find in most children's books, and if you're up for that, this book is a great guide and a brilliant tale.
Mar 06, 2016
Maese Delta rated it really liked it
It was quite the experience reading this book. First I had seen the movie, which became quickly one of my favourites.
Now, having the chance of reading the book, I enjoyed the pacing, and getting familiarized with the setting, and taking for granted the obvious changes made for the movie (the absence of the magic creature that helped the Cook and, instead of the Rat Leader, Boticelli Remorso).
Considering the style it's narrated, sometimes it irked me that the author called for the reader's attention so many times, thougth I just kept reading on. I think it serves for a good, thrilling reading aloud to children, so that's why it should work better as such.
As for the ending, it seemed it was a bit... lacking, I kept waiting for something else to happened. Of course, the chapters are way too short, though that just made me appreciate it more when it comes to less is more in writing, but there could be just another page, and something else, for me to have enjoyed the last chapter.
All in all, it was easy for me to care for Despereaux, and the increasing burden of hopelessness and fear as the adventure progresses (the scene with the Mouse Council being one of my favourites), and the way he's entranced by the Princess and the power of reading, of imagining, of upholding what those chansons du geste spoke of.
Our favorite parts were when Despereaux the brave mouse falls in love with the Princess, and he is willing to do anything to save her from the evil rats. There were evil rats, a death in a family and plenty of perfidy in this story. But as the quest goes on, Despereaux becomes a brave mouse. The one thing we would caution to other readers, is that some parts are emotional and could bring you to tears. And sometimes it can be confusing the way the story goes backwards and forwards from the present tense. Would we recommend this book? Yes, if you think you’d like a story about a brave, little mouse who has such a big quest ahead of him. We rate this book at 5 stars.
Definitely, worth reading!
Edit: I also read the first chapter aloud to my 3rd grade students and they were begging for more! Many of them commented that they'll be reading it on their own over the summer.