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The Tale of Despereaux

by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering

Published by Candlewick Press, 2003
267 pages
ISBN: 0-7636-1722-9

Ages 7 - 11

This funny, original story brings four different strands into a narrative whole, with well-developed fairytale characters. There's Despereaux, the heroic young mouse who would rather read books than gnaw them; Chiaroscuro, a rat living in a dark dungeon, who aspires to a life filled with light; Miggery Sow, a serving girl who longs to be a princess; and, of course, the princess herself, who looks and acts just like the princesses in Despereaux's beloved book of fairytales. The ways in which all these characters' lives intersect is the basis for a multilayered story that deftly draws on multiple literary traditions. The absurd idealism and romantic chivalry of Despereaux, for example, suggest that he may be a direct descendant of Don Quixote. DiCamillo's use of the intrusive narrator who directly addresses the reader harkens back to Henry Fielding's Tom Jones. The story is at once sophisticated and wholly accessible to children, particularly as a read-aloud. Beautiful book design and numerous black-and-white line drawings add to the old-fashioned feel of the satisfying story. Honor Book, CCBC Newbery Award Discussion. CCBC categories: Fiction for Children.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center

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