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The Tale of Despereaux
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The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The Tale of Despereaux is a fantasy book that will capture the hearts of young children and adults.  This is the story of Despereaux, a mighty small mouse, who was born with larger than normal ears, eyes that opened to early, and lived at the Palace with the King, Queen and Princess.   Despereaux was not the normal mouse who hunted for food and stayed out of sight.  He falls in love with the music that he hears, the beautiful Princess Pea living in the palace, and is able to read books.  


    The Tale of Despereaux is divided into four separate books.  In A Mouse is Born, the author introduces the reader to Despereaux and his family.  The reader learns that Despereaux gets in to so much trouble that the Most Very Honored Head Mouse banned him to the dungeon, with a the “red thread of death” tied to his neck.  While in the dungeon, Despereaux meets and befriends Gregory, the jailor.  In Chiaroscuro, Despereaux meets the feared rat leader of the dungeon, Roscuro, who is responsible for the Queen's death.  You could say he scared her to death after landing in her bowl of soup. 


In Gor! The Tale of Miggery Sow, the author introduces the reader to a servant girl who would only like her wishes granted.  Miggery Sow is always in the habit of receiving clots (hits) to the ears for her behaviors that others think are foolish.  Her one wish is to become a Princess. In the last book, the Recalled to the Light, Roscuro and Miggery team up to capture Princess Pea and relocate her to the dungeon. 


     There plan is overheard by Despereaux, who is lucky enough to escape the dungeon with help from Gregory.  In the end, Despereaux is able to save the life of Princess Pea.   With a little forgiveness in their hearts Despereaux, Princess Pea, Miggery Sow, and Roscuro go up to the kitchen to enjoy the delicious banned soup that the cook was making.


The setting of this story is an old and dreary castle.  Like most castles, this one also has a dungeon in it.  As DiCamillo describes the dark and dreary dungeon where Despereaux has been sentenced to, you can actually picture the stickiness, dampness, and close quarters of the walls.     


The plots of Despereaux getting free of the dungeon and the saving the life of Princess Pea help add to the theme of good winning over evil.  In the end, Despereaux does save the Princess, whom he had fallen in love with, from Miggery Sow and Roscuro.





DiCamillo does a wonderful job of drawing the reader into this book.  DiCamillo speaks to the readers, "Dear Reader," throughout this story of love, rejection, and wanting to be accepted.  DiCamillo expertly weaves four stories into one by creating wonderful plots and characters that are going to take your breathe away.  You will fight for Despereaux to live his life the way he wants to, falling in love instead of hunting for food, standing up to Roscuro and being brave and not killing him when he had the chance.  You will want to cry every time Miggery is hit because she simply wasn’t understood.


You are able to see the characters weaknesses and identify their strengths.

Despereaux has the weakness of falling in love with a beautiful Princess, but his strength of overpowering the bad rat, using a needle like a soldier would use a sword, of the dungeon shows that when things matter a small little one can be just as big.  The king’s weakness is that he doesn’t understand the connection that Princess Pea and Despereaux have and his strength; he can ban anything he wants from the castle.  He chose to ban soup, since his wife died while attempting to eat it.




Timothy Basil Ering lends illustrations, done in pencil, that bring out the darkness of the dungeon that DiCamillo is expressing as she writes.  The thin line that Ering is using gives ideas that Despereaux is small in size, but not weak in heart.



 A must have for any library!!!!


My favorite Quotes from the Book


"The princess smiled at Despereaux again, and this time, Despereaux smiled back.  And then, something incredible happened:  The mouse fell in love." p. 30


"'I would like very much to torture a prisoner,' said Roscuro.  'I would like to make someone suffer.'"   p. 90


"Despereaux held the trembling needle against Roscuro's heart.  The mouse knew that as a knight, it was his duty to protect the princess.  But would killing the rat really make the darkness go away?" p. 262


"But before you leave, reader,  imagine this:  Imagine an adoring king and a glowing princess, a serving girl with a crown on her head and a rat with a spoon on his, all gathered around a table in a banquet hall.  In the middle of the table, there is a great kettle of soup.  Sitting in the place of honor, right next to the princess, is a very small mouse with big ears."  p. 267-269


  DiCamillo, Kate.  2003.  The Tale of Despereaux. Illus. by Timothy Basil Ering.   Massachusetts:  Candlewick Press.  ISBN:  0763617229.

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