"Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark." - The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
The movie, The Tale of Despereaux, just opened in theatres this weekend. Behind the movie is the 2004 Newbery award winning book by the same title written by acclaimed author Kate DiCamillo. If you or your children have not read the The Tale of Despereaux yet, I encourage you to do so. It is a wonderful book that deserves to be read.
For the record, I am not a big fan of mice. I dislike rodents. This is one of the reasons that I have cats. But, there are exceptions. Despereaux is one of them. It is hard not to like a sickly little mouse with obscenely large ears that loves music, stories, and princesses. It is even harder not to fall in love with this unlikely hero - one brave little mouse, the knight with a shining needle.
I first read The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread a couple of years ago. One of my educator friends recommended the title. And, if I remember correctly, it was one of those books so interesting that I read it all in one sitting. The Tale of Despereaux is a story of hatred and sorrow, of kindness and empathy, of revenge and forgiveness, and of love and light. It is a fairy tale of sorts.
Divided into four books, The Tale of Despereaux tells the intertwined stories of it's main characters, Despereaux Tilling, Chiaroscuro (Roscuro) and Miggery Sow. Despereaux is an outcast in the mouse world. He breaks mouse laws by befriending and loving the Princess Pea. For this he is banished to the dark dungeon. Roscuro (the light-loving, dungeon-dwelling rat) and the beautiful Princess Pea despise each other due to an unfortunate incidence involving soup. Because of this, Roscuro seeks revenge against the princess. His accomplice, Miggery Sow is a slow, abused little girl who unwittingly gets pulled into his terrible plot. It is up to Despereaux, the brave little mouse with a big heart to set things right and bring about a happily ever after.
The deeply engaging book works as a great read-aloud and is often used as a teaching tool in elementary schools. There is much to ponder and discuss, from the use of light and dark in relation to good and evil to the unusual vocabulary terms like "perfidy." The characters experience a gamut of feelings, from hatred to forgiveness. Children's books don't get much better. The black and white illustrations throughout by Timothy Basil Ering help bring a vintage, fairy-tale quality to the book. However, the book is correctly marketed for children ages 7–12 and is not for younger children. The character Miggery Sow experiences violent handling, and the book has many dark moments that made me, even as an adult, incredibly sad. I will not be reading this one to my preschooler but eagerly wait the future when she is ready for a story such as this.
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering. Candlewick Press (August 2003), 272 pages, ISBN 9780763617226
Candlewick Press Teacher's Guide to The Tale of Despereaux
Website of author Kate DiCamillo
Universal Pictures The Tale of Despereaux Movie Site
Scholastic Teacher's Guide to The Tale of Despereaux
Win your own hardcover copy! Candlewick Press has kindly offered to sponsor a giveaway. One (1) Brimful Curiosities reader will receive a hardcover copy of the original The Tale of Despereaux.
To enter, visit the Candlewick Press -Despereaux page and leave a comment letting me know which other Despereaux related book looks interesting.
• For contact purposes, if you are a non-blogger or your email is not accessible in your blog profile, please leave a valid email address within the comment section.Three ways to gain extra entries (Maximum total entries is 4):
• Contest is open to US only
• Contest ends on Wednesday, January 7, 2008 at 11:59 PM CST.
• Winner will be chosen at random
1st extra entry: Follow Me! or subscribe by email or RSS reader
2nd extra entry: Blog about this contest then post your link in the comment section.
3rd extra entry: Follow me on twitter (iambrimful) and tweet about the contest.