Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

"Despereaux looked down at the book, and something remarkable happened. The marks on the pages, the "squiggles" as Merlot referred to them, arranged themselves into shapes. The shapes arranged themselves into words, and the words spelled out a delicious and wonderful phrase: Once upon a time.
"Once upon a time,'" whispered Despereaux.

And then, there's this, too:

"The dungeon, reader, stank. It stank of despair and suffering and hopelessness. Which is to say that the dungeon smelled of rats."

The language is superb in this book. It was a delightful read-aloud that our family could enjoy. I had a vague awareness of this book by seeing it in the YA section in our local library, but not until I read for myself the young adult novel Flora & Ulysses, did I realize they were by the same author. I had looked up Despereaux on amazon to get a little blurb of what it would be about, and saw that it won the 2004 Newberry, one of the most prestigious awards for young adult literature. I was definitely hooked, and put it on reserve.

From the very beginning, this story of the strange little mouse with big ears and an idealistic heart had us all saying, "okay....just one more chapter". It's a large book for a 5 & 7 year old to sit through, at over 250 pages, but the story and the writing were just so good. Thankfully, the chapters are extremely short, too. The characters are quirky and wonderful, and the description is rich and full for this extremely odd plot-line.

Basically, this: a large-eared, yet small and sickly mouse knows he is meant for something big, even though the rest of the mouse community think he is strange and 'not a mouse'. He falls in love with the princess that he shares the castle grounds with, and what happens there includes soup, rats, a very plump and abused maid named Miggery Sow, a jailor with a rope around his ankle, darkness, and love.

I can't necessarily explain it much more than that, reader. You're just going to have to pick it up for yourself!

PS- Don't even bother with the movie at any time. Before the book, or after, it is terrible. It doesn't make any sense and it doesn't follow the plot line at ALL. Characters genders have been changed, bizarre twists added to the plot that were not in the book--absolutely horrid excuse for a film after the movie. What a sour experience after such a fun book.

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