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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 12, 2004
You can get the storyline from the excellent reviews on this page. If you are looking for a terrific read-aloud or book study or novel for your literature circles, this is it. Are you teaching literary elements? This book has it all, character, plot, setting, theme, motivation, point-of-view, genre, voice, elaboration, foreshadowing, word choice...
The wonderful thing is your students will just think you are reading them the BEST story ever. I read chapters 1-3 aloud and then stopped. The kids sent up a chorus of "Nooo, Don't Stop!!!"
We sold so many hard cover copies of the book at our school book fair that we had to reorder several times. Parent were remarking, "He has never begged me for a book before..."
Dust off your French accent and have fun. You will enjoy reading this book aloud as much as your students will enjoy listening to it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2006
The Tale of Despereaux
By Kate Dicamillo
Who is Despereaux? Some handsome prince who rides on a horse and saves a beautiful princess? No, Despereaux is a mouse, a tiny one who is able to find the courage to save the one he loves and honours. The Tale of Despereaux, is a fantasy which proves you don’t have to be big to be a hero. This story includes some soup, a spoon, a spool of red thread and takes place in a castle, a mouse hole and later leads into a dark, depressing dungeon filled with hungry rats.
The Tale of Despereaux, also tells the story about a strange rat called Chiaroscuro who covets a world filled with light and a servant girl called Miggery Sow who desires to be a princess. All three characters are having difficulties in life; Despereaux loves a human princess and breaks many rules which leads to him getting sent to his death. (Or what others think should be his death). Miggery Sow yearns for the crown of royalty, but she has cauliflower ears causing her hearing problems. She is also thought of as a goof, and finally when she becomes a servant, Mig gets tricked into helping a rat who only wishes for suffering. (Or so it seems). Remember, Chiaroscuro, the rat who desired light I told you about earlier? Well, this rat happens to also be the sly rodent who tricks Miggery Sow.
A few themes inside the The Tale of Despereaux are: love, bravery and wanting but not always getting. Love is shown when Despereaux falls in love with the Princess Pea. “The princess smiled at Despereaux again, and this time, Despereaux smiled back. And then, something incredible happened: The mouse fell in love.” Bravery is shown when Despereaux ventures down into the dungeon to save his love. “I have never known a mouse who has made it out of the dungeon only to go back into it again.” The main theme, which is to want but not always being able get, is shown throughout the whole story. When Miggery Sow wants to be a princess, when Chiaroscuro wants light and when other mice wish for Despereaux to be more like a mouse. Everyone in the story wants something, but none actually get what they want.
I think what inspired Kate Dicamillo to write this book was a fairy tale, but then she thought that idea would be unoriginal. Instead, she decided to base her story on something less heroic and thought of a mouse. Later on, I think Kate Dicamillo decided to put important lessons into her story which included being brave no matter what others think. She is an extremely talented writer, and her book ended up as an original fairy tale.
This book is spectacular, it will make you want to cry, cheer, laugh and more! Out of 5 stars, I would rate The Tale of Despereaux a 5 because it is appropriate for all readers and it teaches important lessons in life. There are great descriptions. The story is emotional and has different perspectives. Kate Dicamillo is a genius, and she also wrote The Tiger Rising, Because of Win-Dixie and more. The Tale of Despereaux is one of my personal favourite books and I definitely recommend it to you. So in the end, does Despereaux save Princess Pea, does Chiaroscuro get his world of light he desires? As a reader, it is your destiny to find out.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2006
Are you looking for a fantastic, interesting fiction book about adventure to read? Then The Tale of Despereaux is the perfect book for you!
I, myself, LOVE this book because I love adventure, fiction books and I love reading about people that are brave to go on a dangerous journey. I also love this book because it has very descriptive words. I would rate this book 9.5 out of 10 because it’s not as boring as other books. It has this funny catch like a small mouse carrying thread and trying to save a princess. This is a fiction book that can make you laugh and cry. It has a variety of emotions inside. My opinion is that you should read this book carefully so you won’t miss the emotional or funny parts. I think this is the best book I’ve read in my life!
It is set in a castle which has a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread. Despereaux is a ridiculously small mouse with obscenely big ears. He is also extremely skinny. He has a huge love for Princess Pea. Princess Pea is a kind, beautiful princess that lives in the castle with her dad, the King and her mom, the Queen. The characters in the book are Despereaux (or course!), Princess Pea, Gregory the jailer, Miggery Sow, Miggery Sow’s dad, and the mean rats.
Despereaux was put into the pitch black, scary dungeon. Despereaux met Princess Pea in a room where her dad (the King) plays music for her. Despereaux even let Princess Pea touch him! According to the Mouse Council, mice are not allowed to let humans touch them because they are not to be trusted. But when Despereaux met Princess Pea and let her touch him, Despereaux’s brother, Furlough saw what happened and told his father, Lester. Lester happened to say that his own son, Despereaux, HAD to be punished. He HAD to tell the Mouse Council. So the Mouse Council listened to Lester talk about what happened with Despereaux, Princess Pea, and the King. The Mouse Council agreed to put Despereaux in the pitch black, scary dungeon, where he meets Gregory the jailer. Gregory is a human that becomes Despereaux’s friend. The Tale of Despereaux is mainly about Despereaux wanting to save Princess Pea from the pitch black, scary, smelly dungeon because Roscuro, a tremendously mean rat, kidnapped Princess Pea and put her into the scary, smelly dungeon. Will Despereaux escape out of the pitch black, scary and smelly dungeon? Will Princess Pea be saved by someone? You’ve got to find out.
I think The Tale of Despereaux has three themes. The three themes are love, bravery, and friendship. It is about love because Despereaux loves Princess Pea and goes through lots of trouble because he loves Princess Pea. It is about bravery because Despereaux is brave to go to the pitch black, scary, smelly dungeon to save Pea. Also, Despereaux is brave to face big rats on his ‘journey’ to save Pea. It is about kindness because Gregory the jailer is kind enough to help Despereaux in a big way.
I think the author, Kate DiCamillo, wrote this book because she could have loved mice and princesses. She also could have written this book because someone could have asked her to write about a hero with exceptionally large ears.
If you read The Tale of Despereaux, you will LOVE it and you would think it is 99.9% interesting and fabulous! But just to tell you, you may cry half way through the book because this book is pretty sad. BOO-HOO!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2004
_The Tale of Despereaux_ aspires to become a children's classic, but fails due to its poorly realised characters, conventional fairy-tale cliches, and an intrusive narrative voice that attempts to ingratiate itself to the reader. Is it necessary to address the reader so patronisingly in every single chapter (di Camillo seems to underestimate the intelligence of her readers)? The novel also lacks subtlety in dialogue, and delivers very obvious themes such as light vs. darkness and a trite heroism found in the title character. Its ending is abrupt and may not satisfy readers' more detailed questions about how the lives of the protagonists resolve. Stories indeed are light, as Gregory the jailkeeper says, but Kate di Camillo's latest effort, while at times charming, lacks the radiance and perceptiveness of a true classic.
For another story about mice that is di Camillo's superior in every way, consider Russell Hoban's _The Mouse and His Child_ (di Camillo is indebted to Hoban's depiction of Manny Rat for her Roscuro). _The Mouse and His Child_ is a satisfying tale that doesn't flinch at depicting the harrowing sorrows and joys of childhood, and, unlike _Despereaux_, would continue to delight upon subsequent readings.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on March 13, 2007
I was drawn to this tale by it's cover, and picked it up to read to my two adorable nephews. So glad I did. They just loved it!! We could not wait to get to the next fact, I loved this book so much, that when I left the first copy with them, I went out and bought another copy for myself because I could not wait to see what happened next!! Despereaux is a charming little character, with just that, lots of character. A great book for children and their parents alike!! A magical fairytale with a great message that has stayed with me long after reading it (and a book I know I will read again!!)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 25, 2006
This excellent fiction fantasy if full of light fun, animals and moments that bring understanding to another?s feelings. The writing style the author employs creates a story that is perfect for orating and literacy groups of young readers.

This animal adventure story about an adorable, abnormally small young mouse with very large ears shows readers what it is like to be ostracized by his own kind. Readers follow little Despereaux as he finds the courage to love and sacrifice for love. A sad rat named Roscuro, who loves music and light, becomes twisted when he finally conforms to the dark ways of his kind. He creates a sneaky plan to kidnap Princess Pea that would make all rats swell with pride. Only Despereaux?s devotion to the Princess can save her. Insight into the troubles of abused kids, the haunting loss of a child and dreams so powerful they can over come prejudices and social barriers... all of this and more are waiting for readers of Desperaux and his quest to save Princess Pea from the dungeon maze.

Author of five other books, Kate DiCammillo has successfully created a lovable character that will be cherished by young readers for generations and is sure to become a classic in children?s literature. Her style creates a warm feeling of being told the story ? rather than reading it.

Both the author and the book have won numerous awards including the John Newbery Medal, which honors the most distinguished contributions to children literature in America. The ripped page edges give the book an antiqued feel and make it seem so much more special ? as if the book was handed down for generations.

Numerous pencil sketch images are incredibly talented work - expressions on the faces and the details, even in the shading, make them worth the price of the book alone. Illustrator Tim Ering has been kept busy at his career with several other books and magazine projects as well as working with theaters, galleries and more. This talented artist is also the author of The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone.

Desperaux is a National Best Seller book, has won at least twenty-four awards, including Chapman awards for Best Classroom Read Alouds, and is quite frankly, one of the most enjoyable stories to read. Teachers, educators and parents will find the appropriate to young people aged 7-12 or Grades 2-7. Tucked neatly in the story are small literary lessons, such as the meaning of ?perfidy?. Without hesitation, I give this book the highest rating possible and recommend it to anyone who enjoys light animal adventure stories.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 4, 2003
A better idea in its conception than its execution. I enjoy stories where animals speak, and this one began with great promise. The initial tale of the mouse Despereaux is good, and it leads nicely into the story of the rat Roscuro. Unfortunately, once the book hits the story of the servant girl Miggery Sow, it looses itself. The Miggery Sow plotline is rather horrendous in the face of the others. In it, a girl's mother dies, her father trades her to a man that beats her soundly day in and out, and as a result she's nearly deaf. Once she arrives at the castle she becomes fat and beaten even more by her fellow servants. This would be all well and good if it was done with any sympathy at all. It is not. The girl is stupid and scenes of her beatings are told with a disturbingly jovial tone about the, "clouts" about the ears. There is no sympathy for the working poor in this book. The only sympathetic lower class character, the jailor Gregor, is ceremoniously killed off without so much as a final scene. The cook is suddenly supposed to become a likable character when she serves soup to Despereaux, the author hoping the reader will forget that not 100 pages ago she was last seen beating a 12 year-old girl. The princess, who has grown up rich and beautiful, has no flaws. Her father is stupid, but not evil. In the end, this story has attempted to be about dreams and how they don't always come true. This is all well and good, but it feels patched together. It is almost as if the author didn't know where she was going with the plot as she wrote. For a much better story of a young mouse learning about courage, see "Redwall" by Brian Jacques or Avi's "Poppy". All this isn't to say I don't wish I loved it more. I do! But somehow I just couldn't love it as everyone else did.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 20, 2003
I LOVE fantasies and have been reading them for years---WAYYYY before Harry Potter and his imitators came along.
(And, by the way, Harry himself is derivative of Diana Wynne Jones, Roald Dahl & a host of other writers)
I read Brian Jacques books before they go out on the library shelves.
I swallow Tamara Pierce books whole--or would if I could.
I loved The Thief Lord,and Artemis Fowl, and I was prepared to love this book too.
But I don't.

It's what in my old neighborhood would be called a mish-mosh.
One moment it seems to be a charming fairy tale, the next it's dark fantasy that reminds me a lot of the "Deptford Mice" series.
(The whole underground with the rats world in the dungeons could have come right out of that series!)
As for the princess,her family and the whole soup thing, it seems straight out of something like James Thurber's Many Moons.

Characters are not consistent. I had no idea whether or not I was supposed to like the kitchen maid--and mostly I just found her durned annoying!Despereaux himself never seemed much of a three dimensional character--you couldn't really get to CARE about him.And his mama's French mannerisms may have been intended as humor, but it fell flatter than a crepe for me!
Above all, the arch narration really annoyed me--"I must tell you now, dear reader"--just GO AWAY and let the story unfold!

As I said, I might have loved this when I was a kid--and it is meant for kids.
But a really REALLY good children's book will be so special even an experienced readers will adore. And this one just isn't that good.
Why is this book being so touted? Is it perhaps the beautiful book design, art and the fact that it was written by an AWARD WINNING WRITER? Cynic that I am, I have to wonder...............
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2015
This is a well written book- HOWEVER, this is NOT suitable for children. It is a DARK, and SAD, and TRAGIC story of cruel abandonment, dark human character and after attempting to read it to two of my children, skipping and skimming when needed, until the story stopped making sense because I had to cut out so much and I finally gave up. It is too bad, because the concept is great and my girls loved the idea of the mouse and the princess, but the rest of the story was just SO DARK. Ie. trading your kid for a pack of cigarettes, and rats that scheme on how to bring "sorrow" to others (really?!?!).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 28, 2004
I was unfair in my original review entitled "dreadful" so I am totally revising the review.
I wouldn't recommend this book to people--I think there are many better children's books (the author's included) from which to choose--but it does pick up after the first "book" (i.e., section) which both my son and I found boring and shallow.
As the narrator might say, "Beware, reader....." The cruelties described in the book make it unsuitable for kids under 10.
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