September 13 – 19
When Despereaux is born, he is most unlike any of the other mice. He has very large ears which help him to hear better and he would rather read words in a book instead of eating them! Above all, he wants to be a knight and rescue his fair princess. In a story that reveals how difference choices tie all of these characters together, we learn how a rat became bad, how an innocent girl turns mean, and how a king learns to love soup again.
DiCamillo K. (2003). The tale of Despereaux. Cambridge, Mass.: Candlewick Press.
I really enjoyed how DiCamillo tied all of the individual story lines together throughout the novel. I thought it was interesting to see how a series of different decisions affected each of the other characters. It's a great story that teaches children about the importance in believing in yourself and being kind to others. I think it really is a modern fairy tale.
Gr. 3-6 Forgiveness, light, love, and soup. These essential ingredients combine into a tale that is as soul stirring as it is delicious. Despereaux, a tiny mouse with huge ears, is the bane of his family's existence. He has fallen in love with the young princess who lives in the castle where he resides and, having read of knights and their ladies, vows to 'honor her.' But his unmouselike behavior gets him banished to the dungeon, where a swarm of rats kill whoever falls into their clutches. Another story strand revolves around Miggery, traded into service by her father, who got a tablecloth in return. Mig's desire to be a princess, a rat's yen for soup (a food banished from the kingdom after a rat fell in a bowl and killed the queen), and Despereaux's quest to save his princess after she is kidnapped climax in a classic fairy tale, rich and satisfying. Part of the charm comes from DiCamillo's deceptively simple style and short chapters in which the author addresses the reader: 'Do you think rats do not have hearts? Wrong. All living things have a heart.' And as with the best stories, there are important messages tucked in here and there, so subtly that children who are carried away by the words won't realize they have been uplifted until much later. Ering's soft pencil illustrations reflect the story's charm. - Ilene Cooper; 272pg. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2003.
Cooper, I. (2003 July 1) [Review of The Tale of Despereaux]. Booklist. pp 1886
From School Library Journal:
Gr 3 Up A charming story of unlikely heroes whose destinies entwine to bring about a joyful resolution. Foremost is Despereaux, a diminutive mouse who, as depicted in Ering's pencil drawings, is one of the most endearing of his ilk ever to appear in children's books. His mother, who is French, declares him to be 'such the disappointment' at his birth and the rest of his family seems to agree that he is very odd: his ears are too big and his eyes open far too soon and they all expect him to die quickly. Of course, he doesn't. Then there is the human Princess Pea, with whom Despereaux falls deeply (one might say desperately) in love. She appreciates him despite her father's prejudice against rodents. Next is Roscuro, a rat with an uncharacteristic love of light and soup. Both these predilections get him into trouble. And finally, there is Miggery Sow, a peasant girl so dim that she believes she can become a princess. With a masterful hand, DiCamillo weaves four story lines together in a witty, suspenseful narrative that begs to be read aloud. In her authorial asides, she hearkens back to literary traditions as old as those used by Henry Fielding. In her observations of the political machinations and follies of rodent and human societies, she reminds adult readers of George Orwell. But the unpredictable twists of plot, the fanciful characterizations, and the sweetness of tone are DiCamillo's own. This expanded fairy tale is entertaining, heartening, and, above all, great fun.-Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY; 272pg. CAHNERS PUBLISHING, c2003.
Budin, M.L. (2003 August 1). [Review of The Tale of Despereaux]. School Library Journal. pp 126.
Library Setting Uses:
Since the movie came out recently, I think it would be a great holiday break program to show the movie and then have students who have also read the book discuss the differences. At the very least, it would be a fun movie to show for all children. But it is nice in a library setting to show movies based upon novels. Often I've noticed that children will get excited and interested in the story and will want to read the book on their own.