The Tale of Despereaux is a novel by Kate DiCamillo, and winner of the Newberry Award. The setting is in a medieval era, and most of the events take place in a large castle. The main plot revolves around an undersized mouse with large ears named Despereaux. Despereaux is considered strange and eccentric compared to the other mice in the castle. For one thing, he enjoys reading books rather than nibbling on its pages. One of his favorite books is about a knight rescuing a princess. Another important character is a spiteful rat named Chiaroscuro, who is called Roscuro for short. Roscuro is unlike other rats, because he desires to leave the darkness in which rats are accustomed to living. Roscuro decides to visit a royal banquet, but he falls from a chandelier into the soup. This angers the princess of the castle, named Princess Pea, and she gives Roscuro a scornful look. Roscuro’s feelings are hurt by the incident, and he plots to get revenge against the princess. He convinces an unfortunate peasant girl name Miggery Sow to help him kidnap Princess Pea, promising the girl that she could become the princess instead. Despereaux learns of the plan, and sets out on a quest to rescue the princess.
This book is actually divided into four books. The first book focuses on Despereaux. The second book focuses on Roscuro. The third book focuses on Miggery Sow. The fourth book ties all of the main characters together. I think the organization of this book is very clever. I enjoyed the way the story shifted focus from one character to another, and finally brought them all together. I especially enjoyed the intertwining of events as the book drew toward its conclusion.
Overall, I think this book is very charming and entertaining. The story is filled with adventure and excitement. The characters are simple, but memorable. The narrator presents the story in a way that seems almost interactive with the reader. I felt like the narrator was speaking directly to me, which made this book very engaging. I was drawn in by the binding of the book itself, which describes it as “being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread.” It was very satisfying to read about how these elements all came together to make a unique and enjoyable story. This book is one of my favorites and I think just about anyone would enjoy reading it.
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.