Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Tale of Despereaux

The destruction was irresistible. When I was a young child, one of my favorite Beatrix Potter stories was The Tale of Two Bad Mice. For some reason, I loved the fact that these two innocent looking mice stayed in a doll's-house and wrecked the lovely furnishings and fake, porcelain food with glee (they do make some amends, however). The detailed watercolor illustrations are worth lingering over, and I read this book as often as possible. There is something about children and stories about mice, even today. Maybe it's because children can relate to mice--they are both tiny and usually a bit timid.

If you have children, or even if you don't but simply enjoy children's literature, I recommend The Tale of Desperaux, a 2004 Newbery Medal winner by Kate DiCamillo, a charming, off-beat book, which was recently released as an animated film, starring Matthew Broderick, Emma Watson, Signourney Weaver, Dustin Hoffman, Kevin Kline, Tracey Ullman, and others.

Here's the basic story of The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread. Despereaux Trilling, a misfit mouse, is born with courage, which a mouse should never possess. Despereaux can also read, which further sets him apart and introduces him to other worlds and great ideas. Because he's so different from the other mice, he's banished from Mouseworld, and the unthinkable happens--Despereaux is befriended by a rat, Roscuro, who's intrigued by Despereaux's stories of the faraway kingdom of Dor, where a king grieves for his late queen, and a princess feels lonely. In fact, all the villagers are suffering, in need of both rain and soup. Will this little mouse with the big ears be able to save the kingdom of Dor?

It is an enchanting book, and although the movie does not follow the book too closely, the movie is also quite entertaining. I really don't expect movies to follow the books they're based on all that closely, although some do. Stephen King sums it up well when he says that to compare a book with a movie is like comparing an apple with an orange. They are different fruits. That being said, though, I do wonder what authors think when their books are made into movies--hopefully, they are satisfied with how their books are translated to the silver screen.

Happy New Year to all of my readers!


  1. Happy New Year to you! I'm not sure if I'll venture to see the movie version of "The Tale of Despereaux" but I loved the book. Indeed, I've loved everything by DiCamillo that I've read.

  2. Thanks for your comments.

    Kate, I also enjoyed DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie, in both book and movie form.

  3. Thanks for the review. I preferred the book - I'm afraid the movie relied too much gimickry (the soup hoopla, the cat in the arena, etc.) and the book didn't. The movie was too much of a spectacle while the book was a charming and simple story. Book wins hands down.

  4. about three years ago I bought my then 8 year old daughter the first of the Mercy Watson books by Kate DiCamillo-she went crazy over it wanting us to read it aloud over and over. She now has the first five books in the series (I think there is now a 6th)-proudly displayed in her room. She also proudly read The Tale of Despereaux

  5. I have not read this one with my kids yet. It sounds like I need to add it to my list. Excellent review!


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