Monday, October 27, 2008

My Most Favorite Books: The Tale of Despereaux

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.


Fyrefly said...

I just read this for the first time a few months ago because I had seen a preview for the upcoming movie, and I loved it too! Mostly I was surprised at how dark it was, especially for a kids' book, and yet so hopeful, too.

KT said...

It is really dark and kind of scary too. I think the fact that it is really so hopeful overall is the reason I love it. I just felt good when I finished.

Chain Reader said...

What got my attention about this book was how much different it was from what I thought it would be.

Laura H said...

I have never heard of this book. The author sounds familiar, do you know what else she has written? I am going to check this one out.

KT said...

Chain - I was surprised by how different it was than I expected as well. I was really surprised that I liked it. I didn't expect to at all.

Laura - Kate DiCamillo wrote Because of Winn Dixie and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. I've read Edward and didn't like it as much (though I know several people that liked it better). I have not read Winn Dixie.

Kim said...

I read the first chapter or two of this book a few months ago and I was turned off by the talking animals, too. It sounds like I should get over it and try again. I don't think I've heard anyone say anything bad about it and since it is a Newbery, I'll have to read it sometime, right? :)