Daily Archives: July 15, 2012

The Tale of Despereaux

by Kate DiCamillo
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

Category: Newbery

Personal Evaluation: I generally like Kate DiCamillo, but I was not as impressed with this book. I thought it was trying too hard to be whimsical and funny and so did not strike me as either. I did not really care about Despereaux or his adventure. I rolled my eyes when I read the unnecessarily long subtitle which is in vogue these days (see also: Toys Go Out). I also thought “oh great, another mouse book” – akin to how I felt when a 2nd-grader asked me for books with hamster protagonists.

In the end, I did like it. I still had some qualms, like the fact that much is made, in the beginning, of the agreement that mice and humans were not to converse and hadn’t done so for eons, and at the end Despereaux is launching into conversations with humans, who were responding without surprise. Or the fact that Miggery Sow (whose name made me uncomfortable every time I read it, and instantly removed any pretense of sympathy for her in my mind) goes home with the ex-con father who sold her to the man who abused her. I think that would’ve given my 8-year-old self nightmares.

What might interest children: I guess they find it whimsical and funny, because it’s a popular book – popular enough to be turned into a movie. They do also like rodent main characters, for some reason, and the ending ties together fairly nicely.