The Tale of Despereaux

This modern day fairy tale is about a mouse sentenced to death for loving a human, a rat with a broken and twisted heart intent on revenge, a little girl beaten and unloved, and a motherless princess rather oblivious to them all.


The Tale of Despereaux : Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread
by Kate Dicamillo
Illustrations by Timothy B. Ering
©2003 Candlewick Press
ISBN #0763617229
Hardcover: 272 pages
Awards: Newberry Medal Winner 2004
Reading Level: Ages 9-12

Positive Elements
This book is a pleasure to read aloud. The author’s style is engaging, lively and just plain fun. The subtle rhymes, puns and reader asides were amusing. The little mouse, Despereaux, acts the part of a hero, suffering great personal tragedy to save the princess. The illustrations are beautifully done. Boys will love the action and adventure. The ultimate moral is about the power of forgiveness.

Negative Elements
The little mouse is condemned to death by his own father. The rats are basically the symbol of all that is bad in the world. The dungeon is a dark place of death. The little girl, Miggery Sow is sold by her father and beaten by her new owner until she is almost deaf.

Our Take

I’m not even sure where to start here. I read this book aloud, and we finished it in two afternoons. The children were mesmerized by the characters, the style, and the plot. Yet, at the same time, I couldn’t help feeling that this was a dark, dark story.

My children are at a stage where we are trying to teach them about the darkness of a sinful, fallen world, and this book certainly sparked some discussions for us. Roscuro, the rat, has his heart broken and rather than forgive, he sets his sights on revenge. Miggery Sow, beaten until deaf, joins in the plan but not because she is evil, but simple, and willing to be deceived because she is desirous of something that she will never attain. This book could spark many deep discussions about the nature of good and evil.

So I’m not sure what to say. It was well written and wonderful to read aloud, but the story, while it can provide lots of fodder for learning, is deep and dark. If you like fairy tales and the presentation of evil as evil, then you might enjoy it. If you are looking for a simple wholesome story, then this probably isn’t for you.

Rating
Somewhere between Leave It and Borrow It.

Learning Opportunities
This book could be very useful as a discusion about the nature of good and evil.

About the Author
Kate DiCamillo considers herself a storyteller for both children and adults. She is author of Because of Winn-Dixie (a Newbery Honor book 2000 and released as a film in 2005), The Tiger Rising (National Book Award finalist 2001), Mercy Watson to the Rescue, and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (2006 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner for Fiction).

Where you Can Buy It:
In the US