Tale of Despereaux

Tale of Despereaux

by Kate DiCamillo, Timothy Basil Ering (Illustrator)
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Hardcover, 272 pages
Current Retail Price: $17.99
Used Price: $9.00 (1 in stock) Condition Policy

Put down your soup spoon, Dear Reader, and pick upThe Tale of Despereauxas quickly as possible.

Stories this good just don't come around very often, and more particularly, Newbery Medal books this good don't come around very often, especially these days. It's well-known that Kate DiCamillo (Because of Winn-Dixie,The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane) is an excellent storyteller, but she's excelled herself here.

At first, the story is kind of weird. A young mouse with too-large ears falls in love with a beautiful human princess? Rest assured that things don't turn out half as strange as they might. But rest assured also that this is a story of the utmost hilarity, the utmost tenderness, and the utmost kindness in the face of darkness and evil.

Things happen quickly in the Kingdom of Dor: a rat is responsible for killing Queen Rosemary and ends up banished; Despereaux is banished and ends up on a Quest; Miggery Sow is on a quest to become a princess and ends up thwarting the rat's evil scheme (inadvertantly, of course). Ultimately, this is a story about repentance, forgiveness, honor, and selflessness as exhibited by everyone from an outcast mouse to an outcast rat to an outcast human to the King of the realm.

The Tale of Despereauxis an adventure story set in a fantasy realm that helps us understand ourselves and others better. But (and this is important), it's also wildly funny. DiCamillo crafts her sentences as deftly as E. B. White, infusing most of them with careful wording that can make readers laugh out loud.

Sentences that aren't hilarious, though, are thoughtful and tender. Not content to just churn out drivel, DiCamillo has written a novel that causes readers (both adults and children) to look outside themselves, and to value light over darkness.

It's easy to dismiss most recent Newbery Medal winners right off the bat before even reading them. With so much children's literature eschewing anything like Christian values and holding up humanism, godlessness, and bratty kids as the preferred norm, one likeThe Tale of Despereauxtilts the boat in the other direction. We're thankful for it, and we can only hope more books like this one will be made available to young readers and their parents alike.

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Exodus Rating:  
FLAWS: minor language
Summary: A mouse who doesn't fit in explores a dangerous castle in search of his true love....and the meaning of life.

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  Tale of Despereaux
Margaret (age 8) of Missouri, 8/19/2016
Despereaux was a tiny mouse who was born sickly and with his eyes open.
Once he was taken into the library and instead of eating the books he read them.
He loved music and the feel of the princesses finger on his head.
And finally the other mice put him in the dungeon and he fell on his head, I liked Desperaux because he is so tiny and loves people.
  Wow!
AJF of Kalamazoo, 7/30/2016
The Tale of Despereaux is not just a good book. It's...well...wow! It's about a mouse named - you guessed it - Despereaux. He was born with his eyes open. Later, when he grows up, everyone thinks he's crazy because he falls in love with the human Princess Pea, reads books instead of eating them, and..well..does everything mice don't usually do. Then, he gets thrown in the dungeon for doing those things. Meanwhile, in the dungeon, there is a rat named Ratscuro who, a long time ago, fell in the queen's soup and she died from the shock. Then the king outlawed soup and unreasonably, rats. Anyway, Despereaux gets thrown into the dungeon, and the jailer, Gregory, saves him from the rats. A servant named Miggery Sow who wants to be a princess brings Gregory's dinner and Despereaux escapes on the tray. Ratscuro convinces Mig that she can be the princess if she does what he says. So Mig takes the princess down to the dungeons and Despereaux shows up and....you have to read the book, because I'm not telling the ending!