The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Kate DiCamillo's Newbery Medal-wining The Tale of Despereaux is a thrilling story of a brave, giant-eared mouse in love with a human princess. By by directly addressing the reader, the author introduces many concepts to think and talk about. This book is an excellent read-aloud or discussion group book. It could be read to children as young as 6, but parents need to know there is some violence -- Despereaux's tail is cut off, and a girl's ears are boxed until she's partially deaf. This memorable book has the feel of a classic and was adapted for a movie, DS game, and a console game.
What's the story?
Listen, dear reader, to Kate DiCamillo, and you will hear of Despereaux Tilling, a half-sized mouse with giant ears who is "such the disappointment" to his mama because he won't act like other mice. He is sickly, faints at loud noises, loves music, bright light, and reading books. Worst of all, because he has fallen in love with a human princess named Pea, he talks to humans. For this transgression he is condemned by the other mice, including his own father, to be sent to the dungeon to be eaten by the rats. You will also, dear reader, hear of Roscuro the rat, who also loves light, but has a grudge against the princess. And of Miggery Sow, an abused, dimwitted, partially deaf serving girl who wishes to be a princess. And you will hear how the strange stories of these three outsiders intersect in a most unusual way. Reader, do you believe in happily ever after?
Is it any good?
Kate DiCamillo can do charming. Her debut novel, "Because of Winn-Dixie," was simple and enchanting. Despereaux's tale is more complex and stylized: The author directly addresses the reader throughout, and the hero disappears for nearly a hundred pages. But it has charm in buckets, perfectly matched by Timothy Ering's delightfully weird illustrations.
THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX hits the trifecta for a children's book: It makes a great read-alone, read-aloud, or reading group book. It's easy to read, despite its length and sometimes advanced vocabulary, and perfectly paced and plotted to hold a middle-grade reader's interest. The direct address makes it perfect for involving listeners in the reading. And that same way of talking to the reader allows the author to raise questions that would make for interesting literature group discussions.
Talk to your kids about ...
- Author: Kate DiCamillo
- Illustrator: Timothy Basil Ering
- Genre: Animals
- Topics: Magic and fantasy, Princesses and fairies, Adventures, Cats, dogs, and mice, Fairy tales, Friendship, Great boy role models, Misfits and underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Candlewick Press
- Publication date: January 19, 2004
- Number of pages: 270
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: Newbery Medal and Honors
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