Thursday, July 31, 2014
Book Review: The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
He steps further outside of typical mouse-like behavior as he develops a love of reading, is mesmerized by the light and the beauty of the world, and falls desperately in love with the human princess. Eventually this leads Despereaux to being banished to the dark, deadly dungeon.
In the dungeon lives Roscuro, a rat who also loved the light of the outside world, but has now been trained in the evil ways of the rats. Through a series of unfortunate (and slightly ridiculous) events involving a chandelier and a bowl of soup, Roscuro is left bitter and hateful, and determined to exact his revenge on the princess.
And finally we have poor, poor Miggery Sow. Traded by her father for a handful of cigarettes, a hen, and a red table cloth, her new "uncle" is dark and abusive, giving Mig "a good clout to the ear" every time he is unsatisfied (which is almost always.) This abuse not only leaves her with cauliflower ears, but also very hard of hearing, and (understandably) extremely dim-witted. (Basically, the poor girl never had a chance in this world.)
Eventually Mig is brought to the castle that Despereaux and Roscuro call home, and becomes a chamber maid for the princess Pea. Once there, Roscuro pulls Mig into his revenge plot, leading her to believe that she can somehow trade places with Pea and become the princess herself. And so it becomes Despereaux's destiny to take on the role of mouse in shining armor, and rescue his lovely princess.
This is a sweet story, filled with adventure, heroism, and a very wide range of emotions. I had never read it before (and honestly wasn't eve sure what it was about) but my sister recommended it for my kids, and so we read it together (complete with the dramatically performed voices that my sister insisted on. Good times.)
Although some of the more complex themes were lost on my six-year-old, she still really enjoyed the story, and got invested in the characters and their adventures. My eight-year-old was better able to understand more of the subtleties, and got a little more out of the story than his sister did (while also loving the characters and their adventures.)
I really enjoyed the book too. It was silly, but sweet, and had enough thought-provoking elements to keep adults entertained. If you have kids, I would recommend enjoying this one together.
On a side note, I haven't seen the movie adaption, but my sister strongly recommends that you avoid it. According to her (and I trust her as reliable) the movie is terrible, and does not do the book justice at all. So if you've seen the movie, and it left you with no desire to read the book, keep in mind that the book is much, much better.