The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo – The Newbery Project

The Tale of Desperaux, by Kate DiCamillo

The Tale of Desperaux, by Kate DiCamillo

It was a cute book, but I wouldn’t label it “middle grades” (as the AR folks do). I’d put in the category of good books for advanced Lower Grades readers. In fact, I think I like the title as much as I liked the book. It’s clever. “The Tale of Desperaux – Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread.”  How can you beat that?

From Kate DiCamillo’s Webpage:

Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other’s lives. And what happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: “Reader, it is your destiny to find out.”

The Tale of Desperaux actually reminds me a bit of  The Princess Bride (which is a huge compliment, by the way), with its general fairy tale kookiness. You can’t help but wonder where does she come up with these things? as you’re reading.

My only gripe — it it even is one — is that I couldn’t figure out which of the kids in my life I would recommend this to. Clearly T, at 12, would consider himself too grown up to read a book about a mouse. Meanwhile, R, though not-quite-ten, reminds me of myself at her age. She’s a very advanced reader for her age and quite proud of that fact. I’m afraid she would also reject a fairytale story as being too “baby.” This is a shame. My only remaining option is S. She’s already 10, but is also the proud owner of a couple of rats. Of course, she thinks rats are the good guys. (I think rats are disgusting.) Maybe I’ll package this book up and send it to her with a copy of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, and see whether she ends up preferring rats as the good guys or rats as the villains.

Has anyone else come across this dilemma? Good book, but trouble placing the audience?

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread,
by Kate DiCamillo; Audiobook narrated by Graeme Malcolm

Newbery Winner – 2004

AR Level: 4.7; Middle Grades


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