A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{February 28, 2014}   The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The_Tale_of_DespereauxPlot: This is the story of a mouse who loves stories and music, a vengeful rat, a kidnapped princess and a slave girl with dreams of royalty.

I love it when narrators have personality as this one does. (For other great MG novels with great narrators, check out A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas.) The narrator talks directly to the reader right from the start, and with a touch of irony: “Come closer, dear reader. You must trust me. I am telling you a story.” He/She will often make asides, inviting the reader to think about the actions in the story or the meaning of a word… which sounds annoyingly pedagogical when I say it like that but it actually comes off as charmingly tongue in cheek. I was reminded somewhat of the Princess Bride (or at least Peter Falk’s narration in the movie, I still need to read that book). He/she also adds a delightful touch of humour to the story.

The tale of the tiny mouse named Despereaux is a sweet little adventure with the tone and pacing of a fairy tale. The characterizations are not very deep: there are pure innocents, courageous (if diminutive) heroes, nasty villains (though not completely without reasons for their villainy). But in that it is also like a fairy tale and it doesn’t take away from the charm and magic of the tale. I would love to read this aloud to a group of kids, the format and the style lends itself very well to it.

This a book well deserving of it’s Newbery medal. If you enjoyed it, definitely check out DiCamillo’s amazing comic/novel hybrid Flora and Ulysses.

2014 (#4)


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