by Kate DiCamillo
Despereaux is the youngest, and his family believes that he will die at birth because he is so small, has such large ears, and was born with his eyes open. Obviously there is something wrong with him. His French mother, with a flare for the dramatic, names him Despereaux for the despair in her heart. Despereaux lives and is anything but a normal mouse. For one thing, he doesn't like scurrying to and fro. He also would rather read a book than eat it. And, he falls in love with a human princess, a crime that gets him sent to the dungeons where no mouse has ever returned from alive.
First a side note. I don't really like books where animals are the main character. For whatever reason, it is a complete turn off to me. I also don't like books that talk to the author ("you dear reader..."). I am a strict rule-abider and my 6th or 7th grade English teacher said you should never ever use the word "you" in a paper. Apparently it really sunk in because it really turns me off from books.
With that being said, I loved The Tale of Despereaux. I read it because it won the Newbery award, and after I got over the initial talking to the reader, I couldn't get enough of it. It's one of those books that my husband knows as well as I do because I had to stop and tell him everything, reading him my favorite passages.
Despereaux has such an amazing spirit about him. Even though everyone is constantly putting him down, he continues to do what he thinks is right - listening to music, reading stories, and rescuing princesses. I love that he promises to serve and honor the princess. He just made me smile.
I also love the symbolism of the darkness and the light. How even the evil rats can feel the goodness that comes from the light. I'll end with one of my favorite quotes:
"Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark." (p81 of the hardcover edition)
5 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended.