Friday, September 5, 2008

The Tale of Despereaux: Book Review

Title: The Tale of Despereaux
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Timothy Basil Ering
Reading Level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (April 11, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0763625299
ISBN-13: 978-0763625290

Newbery Medal winner for 2004 is The Tale of Despereaux, being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread. It is also a story of love, hope and forgiveness. However, as clever as it is there is some sadness and violence with some seedy characters and some without any morals at all. Despereaux has the odds stacked against him. I think this is why so many children will love this story. Who can resist a lovable underdog?

The new baby mouse, Despereaux is born with his eyes open and extra large ears. He does not fit in with the rest of the mice. Despereaux is the knight in shining armor of the story and a romantic who can also hear sounds his fellow mice cannot. He follows the sound of beautiful music to find Princess Pea who he falls madly in love with. This causes his father to turn him in to the Mouse Council for falling in love with a human. His brother helps to carry out the life prison term in the rat filled dungeon which is a sure death sentence. Despereaux is rejected by his family and fellow mice because he is different.

Enter rejected, Mig Sow, whose father sells her for a handful of cigarettes, a hen and a red table cloth. No one cares what Mig wants. She is hit upside the head daily until she is almost deaf when a quirk of fate frees her and sends her to the castle as a paid servant. The rat, Roscuro, short for Chiaroscuro, an artistic word, which means the arrangement of light and dark together accidentally becomes attracted to light. Rats are not supposed to like light. His brief exposure causes him to set out on a quest to bring light to the depths of his dungeon home. Roscuro successfully finds a source of light but sees himself for the first time as a rat. An ugly rat that no one likes.

“Rat.” He had never before been aware what an ugly word it was. “Rat.” In the middle of all the beauty, it immediately became clear that it was an extremely distasteful syllable. “Rat.”….It was then Roscuro realized he didn’t like being a rat.

The twist of the story’s ups and downs of Despereaux is never dull.

About the Author: Kate DiCamillo is also the author of Because of Winn-Dixie and Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. If you want to be a writer, write a little bit every day. Pay attention to the world around you. Stories are hiding, waiting everywhere. You just have to open your eyes and your heart.

I also discovered how much time and work goes into creating stories. In college, teachers often complimented me on my writing, and I made the mistake of believing I had a talent for it. I finally realized that talent really doesn't have anything to do with it, but working does. So five days a week, I get up, drink a cup of coffee, and then go to the computer and write. Two pages a day are what I ask of myself. I never want to write, but I'm always glad that I have done it. It takes me about a year to finish a book.

Write it down,