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Book Reviews of The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux
The Tale of Despereaux
Author: Kate DiCamillo
ISBN-13: 9780439701679
ISBN-10: 0439701678
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 270
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.

4.1 stars, based on 29 ratings
Publisher: Scholastic
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

8 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

COFFEEMOMMY avatar reviewed The Tale of Despereaux on + 4 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I am reading this to my kids at night and we are about half way finished. We love it so far.
reviewed The Tale of Despereaux on + 114 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Winner of the Newberry Medal, this is a stirring fantasy from the author of books such as Because of Winn-Dixie. The hero is a mouse and his adventures.
candieb avatar reviewed The Tale of Despereaux on + 239 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This was a very cute children's story. There's action, adventure, romance and comedy all wrapped up into one. Read it, it's a short easy read and you WILL enjoy it. I promise. It's super super cute!

The downside? The author talks to you. I find that highly annoying - the "Dear Reader" parts. Oh, just shut up and tell the story, Ms. Author Lady.
reviewed The Tale of Despereaux on + 12 more book reviews
Kept me wanting to read more. LOVED IT... author did a great job...
3in2books avatar reviewed The Tale of Despereaux on
Deffinitely a literary classic! Cute, moral, and heroic to the very end.
spiral avatar reviewed The Tale of Despereaux on + 21 more book reviews
This book is fantastic bringing you to sorrow and grief at the end you truly care for the character. This book is good to read with a young child or old.
reviewed The Tale of Despereaux on + 157 more book reviews
I am so bummed! I gave my daughter extra money for her school book fair for the Tales of Desperaux, and when she brought it home I realized it wasn't the original book, but based on the movie! I don't plan on reading this, but it is large print and easy sentences for a budding reader.
Well, it would make a fast light read for me...
caffeinegirl avatar reviewed The Tale of Despereaux on + 114 more book reviews
This book was frustrating and disappointing. It is divided into four sections, focusing first on the titular mouse, then on a very evil rat (not Disney-style fun evil, but sadistic, sociopathic, soul-breaking evil), then on a little girl who has beaten to near deafness, and finally it moves to the climax where all the characters are brought together.

At about the halfway point, my young listener and I began to wonder if we were ever going to hear from little Desperaux again. Although I was interested in the girl named Miggery Sow, who I thought had the potential to be a stronger character later in the book (spoiler: no), my listener just wanted to get back to the mouse. That took FOREVER. And let me be clear: there isn't a single likeable character in the rest of the book. That means that for more than half the time we were reading this book, we were reading about characters we either disliked or feared, and wondering when we were going to rejoin the only likeable character. On that basis alone, I would not recommend this book.

The themes of the book seem to be, predictably enough, the triumph of light over darkness and the triumph of love over evil. Also, soup. Presumably to
illustrate the stupendous power of light/love, the dark parts were very, very dark. It was especially hard for me to read aloud the parts where Miggery Sow was beaten anew on her already disfigured and half-deaf ears and cries out in pain. Or was it worse when she was told she was too stupid or too ugly to amount to anything? In addition to Miggery Sow's abuse, there is the truly psychologically twisted rat, and all the parents are awful (sentences young son to death), awful (more interested in own looks than son), awful (sold daughter for cigarettes). Or dead, one is dead (spoiler: yes, it is the princess's mother!).

The tone of the book is forced charm, and includes passages that address the reader directly ("Reader, do you recall the word 'perfidy'? As our story progresses, 'perfidy' becomes an ever more appropriate word, doesn't it?"), ugh. I skipped those wherever I was nimble enough to see them coming. Almost everything about the book seems overwrought, from the recurring reminder of the restorative powers of hot soup to the unrelenting, backstabbing horribleness of Desperaux's family. The mouse council, which includes Desperaux's father, sentences young Desperaux to the castle dungeon to be eaten alive by rats for the crime of being different. His mother is too concerned with her own physical appearance to even care. The circumstances were so over-the-top awful that they became maudlin verging on tacky.

But beyond that, I was disappointed in the messages that the book had to offer. The reader is meant to identify with Desperaux, the only sympathetic character in the book, but his quest is to take it upon himself to rescue the princess (with whom he is in love), despite the extreme unlikeliness of success. Admirably, he overcomes his fears, sticks to his mission, and shows great courage in the face of harm. All the pluckiest features we think we want in our own children. However, in my opinion, the model of single hero who takes it upon himself (it's almost always a him, not a her) to save the world is not a healthy one. These aren't the skills we want for our children as they go out into the world. We want them to know how to work collaboratively, to be team-builders who inspire the best in people. We want them to make plans that have good chances of success (an undersized mouse alone in a dungeon with a sewing needle for protection is not what that looks like) and don't put their own well-being in unreasonable danger unless absolutely necessary. Desperaux does not show good judgment. His success was a complete fluke, and I would not want my child to take the one-in-a-million chance with her own safety that he took with his. In fact, I have told her many times that if she feels in her gut that she is in an unsafe situation, she needs to get herself the heck out of it any way she can as fast as she can. I don't even want her to pause to consider forcing herself down whatever dungeon stairs she is facing. And if she meets any real-life Chiaroscuros, I don't want her to linger long enough to find out if he is really motivated by a love of light, I want her to run in the opposite direction and never look back.

And finally, Princess Pea. Pea, my seven-year-old daughter was disappointed in you (she actually asked me why the princess didn't fight the rat), and I am so grateful that the other books and movies in her life have led her to expect more than the passive resignation to one's fate that was your primary feature. Maybe in our next book the princess will rescue herself or, even better, be just one part of the heroic team that saves the day.