Wednesday 6 January 2016

The Tale of Despereaux

It seems hard to believe that I've been waiting 12 years to read The Tale of Despereaux, but given that it was released in 2003 then I must have been (I read it late in 2015). I've read two of Kate DiCamillo's books before, Because of Winn-Dixie and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and enjoyed both quite a lot so I've been waiting to read more, and thankfully that day finally came. 

After all this waiting, I still didn't really know anything of this story save for the cover which has been taunting me all this time. Despereaux Tilling is a small mouse born in a large castle, he is a runt, but the only one of his litter born alive.
He was ridiculously small. His ears were obscenely large. He had been born with his eyes open. And he was sickly. He coughed and sneezed so often that he carried a handkerchief in one paw at all times. He ran temperatures. He fainted at loud noises. Most alarming of all, he showed no interest in the things a mouse should show interest in. 

Despereaux is different to the other mice- he loves music and story and dancing. He does not want to scurry about the castle hiding in the shadows. He admires the light through the stained glass windows, he can read the books in the library and does not want to eat them. He has love and purpose in his heart, although he is a bit of a fainter.

Told by an omniscient narrator The Tale of Despereaux is told in 4 books, each told from a different perspective.  It is a story of courage, love and soup. 
"And when times are terrible, soup is the answer." 
Times are indeed terrible as Despereaux must go on a perilous quest in the dangerous dungeons of the castle. It is beautifully written dispensing honesty and truth amongst the dungeons full of scary rats.
He saw that the floor of the dungeon was littered with tufts of fur, knots of red thread, and the skeletons of mice. Everywhere there were tiny white bones glowing in the darkness. And he saw, in the dungeon tunnels through which Botticelli led him, the bones of human beings too, grinning skulls and delicate finger bones, rising up out of the darkness and pointing toward some truth best left unspoken. 

We readers get some great advice along the way. 
"Might as well be happy, seeing as it doesn't make a difference to anyone but you if you are or not," said the soldier."
And perspectives on life.
There are those hearts, reader that never mend again once they are broken. Or if they do men, they heal themselves in a crooked and lopsided way, as if sewn together by a careless craftsman. 

We learn that we each take a different path. 
Reader, you must know that an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform. 

It's a beautiful book, quick and easy to read. A deserving Newbery Medal winner. 



Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I think my favorite Kate Di Camillo book is Winn-Dixie. This author is coming to Houston in April. I hope I get to see her!

Margot said...

This book has been on my list for a long time too. I'm on a quest to read all the Newberry Award winning books and this one is a winner. I like your review and now I want to get to that book soon. Also, I haven't visited you in a long while and just wanted to say Hi.