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*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
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*        = Good, with reservations


****The Tale of Despereaux

Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread

by Kate DiCamillo

illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering

Reviewed November 24, 2003.
Candlewick Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2003.  272 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (JF DIC)
Winner of the 2004 Newbery Medal
A Sonderbooks’ Stand-out of 2003:  #3, Children's Fantasy

Here’s a magnificently done original fairy tale about a little mouse with big ears who falls in love with a princess.

Despereaux is not like other mice.  He was born with his eyes open and obscenely large ears.  The other mice don’t approve of him, because he doesn’t scurry.  He hears music that other mice don’t even notice.  To cap it all off, he falls in love with the princess.

When the other castle mice condemn him to the dungeon, Despereaux learns of a wicked plot a rat has made against the princess.  Since no one will believe him, it is up to Despereaux to save her.

The story is simple, but it is beautifully told.  Kate DiCamillo uses an old-fashioned style, speaking directly to the reader.  The style is perfect, giving this modern fairy tale a mythic quality.  It’s a story that begs to be read aloud.  The author’s voice is one that would work wonderfully as a storyteller’s voice.  I’m going to try it on my 9-year-old, though it would definitely work for kids much younger to listen to, I would say even kids just beginning to be ready to listen to chapter books.

The editor, art director and illustrator and anyone else who worked on the design of this book deserve high praise, too.  The format is perfect for an old-fashioned fairy tale, with deckle-edged pages and the full title in gold letters on the spine.  The illustrations are beautiful and the book itself is a work of art.  It strikes me that this book would make an excellent Christmas gift to any family that likes to read aloud.

Reviews of other books by Kate DiCamillo:
Flora and Ulysses
Raymie Nightingale
Raymie Nightingale audiobook
Louisiana's Way Home
The Beatryce Prophecy
The Puppets of Spelhorst
Mercy Watson to the Rescue
Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig
Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package
A Piglet Named Mercy
Bink and Gollie
Bink and Gollie: Two For One
Bink and Gollie: Best Friends Forever
Orris and Timble: The Beginning

Reader comment:  One reader gives this book Five Stars with the comment "so fun."

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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