Saturday, April 10, 2004

The Tale of Despereaux

DiCamillo, Kate. 2003. THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX. Ill. by Timothy Ering. Massachusetts: Candlewick Press. ISBN 0763617229 [Suggested Grade Levels 3-5]

This is a story of a mouse that is in love with music, books, and a princess. Despereaux was born to Lester and Antoinette Mouse and the only one of the litter to survive. But with his looks, his parents fear Despereaux will not survive. He is the only mouse to ever be born with his eyes wide open and his ears, according to his Uncle Alfred, as large as that of a donkey’s. Other than his uncanny appearance, Despereaux is extraordinary in other aspects. As he ventures out into the castle, he discovers his supernatural ability to read. He reads a wonderful story about a beautiful princess and wishes to find a princess of his own. As he reads the story, he hears a sound that entices his senses. He draws near the sound until he is sitting at the feet of the king playing his guitar. The music is enchanting and hypnotic to Despereaux. But as hypnotic as the music is, Despereaux’s trance is broken by the beauty of Princess Pea. Despereaux falls deeply in love with the princess and speaks to her, which causes him to be ex-communicated from his mouse community and thrown into the rat-infested dungeon of darkness. It is in this dungeon that Despereaux becomes a mighty mouse, saves the soul of the peasant girl, Mia, and the life of Princess Pea.

Kate DiCamillo has created two previous works of art, THE TIGER RISING, a National Honor Book Award Finalist, and BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE, a Newberry Honor Book. THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX should win her the Newberry Book of the Year. The simple elements of this book a mouse, a thread, and a girl, make for a fast turning page thriller. All who read Despereaux’s story will be enchanted by the teeny creature with tremendous spirit and courage. Timothy Erigs frolicsome illustrations add to the conflict that builds between the characters.

Children will draw and label portraits of each of the characters in the book, and discuss how all of them are connected.

Children will discuss how looking or being different from others makes a person special.

Other stories about brave mice:
Avi. POPPY. ISBN 0531087832
Hoeye, Michael. TIME STOPS FOR NO MOUSE. ISBN 0698119916
King-Smith, Dick THE SCHOOL MOUSE. ISBN 0786811560

By Jill Howell

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