The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread

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Amazon.com Review

Kate DiCamillo, creator 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, slightly 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 in the end 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” such a lot of times that she has cauliflower ears. Still, the entire 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 without doubt 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 atypical: 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 after all, there is Miggery Sow, a peasant girl so dim that she believes she can turn into 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.

See all Editorial Reviews
The beloved creator of BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE enlightens us with a tale of adventure, despair, love, and soup.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, unattainable 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, in the end, into each other’s lives. And what happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: Reader, it is your destiny to find out.From the master storyteller who brought us BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE comes another classic, a fairy tale full of quirky, unforgettable characters, featuring twenty-four stunning black-and-white illustrations by Timothy Basil Ering, in an elegant design that pays tribute to the best in classic children’s books and bookmaking traditions.