Friday, January 27, 2012

Review: The Tale of Despereaux - Kate DiCamillo

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Genre: Middle Grade, animal fiction
Published on August 25, 2003
Published by Candlewick Press
Pages: 272

This is the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in darkness but covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl with a simple, impossible wish. These characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and ultimately, into each other's lives. And what happens then? Reader, it is your destiny to find out.


This was a strange little story that was rather horrifying in many ways - I always find stories about little animals murdering each other horrifying. But I liked it, for all of its strangeness and creepiness. Despereaux is an adorable little mouse hero, Roscuro a very sad and pitiable rat, and Miggery Sow equally sad and pitiable. Writing about things we Readers are familiar with through the eyes of a mouse and a rat gives us an interesting perspective on what is so common to us - how would a mouse perceive a chandelier? How would a rat, locked up in a dungeon all its life, perceive light shining through a stained-glass window? I also loved how the Author did not bother trying to explain why it is the people in the castle did not react to a talking mouse - or how it is that Despereaux could read. Those are natural enough questions to wonder, but the Author skims past such explanations in a way which makes the Reader forget to wonder. It's not important, she almost seems to say. Let's just say for argument's sake that it is so.

I can see how this became a "must-read" for kids. I am not usually a fan of animal stories, but I really did like this one. It was dark in the right places, and lighthearted when it ought to be. And there is simply no denying that Despereaux is an absolutely adorable little hero.

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