The Tale of Despereaux
by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
A brave mouse, a covetous rat, a wishful serving girl, and a princess named Pea come together in Kate DiCamillo’s Newbery Medal–winning tale.
Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other’s lives. What happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: Reader, it is your destiny to find out.
My thoughts on this book:
From the moment Despereaux the mouse was born, everyone knew he was different. Born extremely small with strange ears and the only survivor of the litter, his parents weren’t sure if he could stay alive. As time goes on, Despereaux becomes quite a curious little critter and begins to question the world around him. He discovers a love for music and falls in love with a lovely princess named Pea. The issue is that Despereaux has gone against the rules put forth by the mouse council by showing himself to the princess, and now he must deal with the consequences by spending time in the dark dungeon below the castle. He’s been ordered by the mouse council, including his father, and there’s no turning back.
He considered fainting. He deemed it the only reasonable response to the situation in which he found himself, but then he remembered the words of the threadmaster: honor, courtesy, devotion, and bravery.
“I will be brave,” thought Despereaux. “I will try to be brave like a knight in shining armor. I will be brave for Princess Pea.”
The book is told in four parts and the entire book setting takes place at the castle in the kingdom of Dor. The whole book is narrated by an omniscient narrator whom isn’t related to the story, but remains the storyteller throughout. The first part begins with Despereaux and his family. The second covers a rat named Chiaroscuro (Roscuro) who is very confused and on the verge of becoming evil. The third book introduces a new character named Miggery Sow, a young girl who was abandoned by her father and wants nothing more than to become a princess just like Pea. The fourth and last part of the book is when all of these characters come together for the climax of the story and I have to say that their fate is never predictable.
Other characters include: King Phillip (Pea’s father-ruler of Dor), a jailer, a cook, and an evil rat in the dungeon named Botticelli. We honestly loved all of the characters. Each one had their own story and were well-developed. Despereaux was hands down my favorite character. Regardless of his size, he’s very hopeful and courageous. His fear is always present, but his perseverance prevails. Miggery Sow was my son’s favorite and she was likable with her eventual change of heart. We loved her language and her repeated use of the word “Gor!”. My daughter’s favorite character was Roscuro because you’re never totally sure who’s side he’s going to take.
We found the story charming as it reads like a fairy tale. It was a little dark at times, but not too bad for children. I was a little nervous once I realized that the book was told in separate parts. You get so invested in the first part and can’t wait to find out what will unfold, and then there’s the switch to a new book with new characters. I thought that format might derail us, but it didn’t. We appreciated the sketched illustrations which enhance the story and bring the characters to life. There’s a lot going on between characters and the action makes this a real page-turner. There were twists we didn’t see coming and there was no telling what direction the story would take. I always love the themes in Kate DiCamillo’s books and this story includes themes of love, revenge, courage, family and forgiveness.
Overall, Kate DiCamillo has woven another wonderful story for children that even adults can enjoy. I’m so glad I purchased this for our home library because I know it’s one that we’ll reread in the future!
- Age Range: 7 – 10 years
- Grade Level: 2 – 5
- Series: Tale of Despereaux
- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Candlewick; 1st ed edition (August 25, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780763617226
- ISBN-13: 978-0763617226