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The Tale of Despereaux

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A brave mouse, a covetous rat, a wishful serving girl, and a princess named Pea come together in Kate DiCamillo's Newbery Medal–winning tale.

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. What happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: Reader, it is your destiny to find out.

272 pages, Paperback

First published August 25, 2003

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About the author

Kate DiCamillo

108 books9,181 followers
Kate DiCamillo, the newly named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2014–2015, says about stories, “When we read together, we connect. Together, we see the world. Together, we see one another.” Born in Philadelphia, the author lives in Minneapolis, where she faithfully writes two pages a day, five days a week.

Kate DiCamillo's own journey is something of a dream come true. After moving to Minnesota from Florida in her twenties, homesickness and a bitter winter helped inspire Because of Winn-Dixie - her first published novel, which, remarkably, became a runaway bestseller and snapped up a Newbery Honor. "After the Newbery committee called me, I spent the whole day walking into walls," she says. "I was stunned. And very, very happy."

Her second novel, The Tiger Rising, went on to become a National Book Award Finalist. Since then, the master storyteller has written for a wide range of ages, including two comical early-chapter-book series - Mercy Watson, which stars a "porcine wonder" with an obsession for buttered toast, and Bink & Gollie, which celebrates the tall and short of a marvelous friendship - as well as a luminous holiday picture book, Great Joy.

Her latest novel, Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, won the 2014 Newbery Medal. It was released in fall 2013 to great acclaim, including five starred reviews, and was an instant New York Times bestseller. Flora & Ulysses is a laugh-out-loud story filled with eccentric, endearing characters and featuring an exciting new format - a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page illustrations, all rendered in black and white by up-and-coming artist K. G. Campbell. It was a 2013 Parents' Choice Gold Award Winner and was chosen by Amazon, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, and Common Sense Media as a Best Book of the Year.

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Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews35 followers
October 26, 2021
The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo

The adventures of a mouse named Despereaux Tilling, as he sets out on his quest to rescue a beautiful human princess from the rats.

The novel is divided into four "books" and ends with a coda. Each "book" tells the story from a different character's or group of characters' perspective: Despereaux, Roscuro, Miggery Sow, and finally all of them combined.

عنوانهای چاپ شده در ایران: «موش کوچولو»؛ «ماجرای دسپرو»؛ «قصه ی دسپروکس»؛ «دسپروکس»؛ نویسنده: کیت دی کامیلو؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دوم ماه ژانویه سال2005میلادی

عنوان: موش کوچولو؛ نویسنده: کیت دی کامیلو؛ مترجم: حسین ابراهیمی (الوند)؛ ویراستار فرزانه کریمی؛ تهران، افق، سال1383، در286ص؛ فروست رمان نوجوانان؛ شابک9789643691516؛ چاپ بعدی سال1395؛ موضوع داستانهای کودکان - افسانه های پریان - داستان موشها از نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 21م

عنوان: ماجرای دسپرو؛ نویسنده: کیت دی کامیلو؛ مترجم: سپیده خلیلی؛ تهران، تولد، سال1388؛ در232ص؛ شابک9786005503173؛

عنوان: قصه ی دسپروکس؛ نویسنده: کیت دی کامیلو؛ مترجم: لیلا شیرزاد؛ تهران، قلم کیکیا، سال1389؛ در176ص؛ شابک 9789649549200؛

عنوان: دسپروکس؛ نویسنده: کیت دی کامیلو؛ مترجم: صونا جلیل نژاد حلاجیان؛ اصفهان، یارمانا، سال1393؛ در253ص؛ شابک9786009508662؛

آیا کس باور میکند که موش کوچولویی عاشق شاهزاده خانمی شود؟ این رمان ماجرای رنجهای همین «دسپرو» موش عاشق است؛ ماجرای ایستادگی او در برابر سختیها، نارواییها، و تبعید، و تهدید؛ رمان ماجرای سفر موش کوچولو، و دوستانش، به سیاهچال ترسناک، در قلعه ای پر زرق و برق است، که شاهزاده خانم آنجا زندگی میکند؛ اما در این سفر چه بر سر آنها خواهد آمد، و این عشق چه سرانجامی خواهد داشت؟ ...؛

موشی شجاع، با یک موش صحرایی طماع، و دخترکی خدمتکار و آرزومند، و شاهزاده ای به نام «پی» در این رمان از «کیت دی کامیلو» گرد هم آمده اند، و داستانی را آفریده اند؛ رمان پر است از شخصیتهایی جذاب و دوست داشتنی «دسپرو تیلینگ»، موشی که به موسیقی، داستانها و البته شاهزاده ای به نام «پی» عشق میورزد؛ «روسکورو» نیز، موش دیگریست، که در تاریکی زندگی میکند، و رویای دیدن جهانی پرنور و روشن را در سر م��پروراند؛ «میگری سو»، دخترکی خدمتکار، و با بهره ی هوشی نه چندان بالا است، که آرزویی ساده اما ناممکن دارد؛ این سه شخصیت، پا به مسیری میگذارند، که آنها را تا ژرفای سیاهچالی ترسناک، بر فراز قلعه ای پر زرق و برق، و در نهایت، به درون زندگی یکدیگر میبرد؛ بعد از آن چه میشود؟ همانطور که «دی کامیلو» خواهد گفت: «مخاطب کتاب، سرنوشتت این است که خودت بفهمی!»؛

نقل از متن: (کتاب نخست: تولد یک موش: یک - آخرین موش؛ این داستان با تولد موشی میان دیوارهای یک قلعه آغاز میشود؛ موشی کوچولو؛ آخرین فرزند پدر و مادرِ خود و تنها موشی که به هنگام تولد و در میان آن همه بچه موش، زنده به دنیا آمد؛ همین که زایمان به پایان رسید، موشِ مادر، خسته گفت: «بچه هایم کو؟ بچه هایم را نشانم بده.»؛
موشِ پدر، موش کوچولویی را بالا گرفت و گفت: «فقط همین یکی است؛ بقیه مرده اند»؛
ــ Mon Dieu
فقط همین یکی؟
ــ فقط همین یکی؛ برایش اسم میگذاری؟؛
مادر گفت: «این همه زحمت برای هیچ.» سپس آهی کشید و ادامه داد: «چه غم انگیز! چه قدر مایه ی تاسف!» او موش ماده ای بود که مدتها پیش، با بار و بنه ی دیپلماتی فرانسوی به قلعه راه یافته بود؛ «مایه ی تاسف» از جمله عبارتهای مورد علاقه اش بود؛ او اغلب آن را به کار میبرد
پدر تکرار کرد: «برایش اسم میگذاری؟»؛
ــ برایش اسم میگذارم؟ باید برایش اسم بگذارم؟ البته که میگذارم. برایش اسم میگذارم، اما او هم مثل بقیه خواهد مرد؛ آه، چه غم انگیز! آه، چه مصیبتی!؛
موشِ مادر دستمالی را جلو بینی اش برد و آن را مقابل صورتش تکان داد؛ بعد، دماغش را بالا کشید و گفت: «برایش اسم میگذارم. بله؛ من اسم این موش را به خاطر این همه تاسف، این همه اندوه، دِسپرا میگذارم؛ ببینم آیینه ی من کجاست؟»؛
همسرش تکه آیینه ای به دست او داد؛ موش مادر که اسمش آنتوانت بود، به خودش در آیینه نگاهی انداخت و آه عمیقی کشید؛ سپس به یکی از پسرانش گفت: «تولس، آن جعبه ی آرایش مرا بیاور ببینم؛ چشمهایم ترسناک شده اند!»؛
هنگامی که آنتوانت داشت چشمهایش را آرایش میکرد، موش پدر، دسپرا را روی تشکی گذاشت که از کهنه پاره ها درست شده بود؛ خورشید ماه آوریل از یکی از پنجره های قلعه، ضعیف اما مصمم به داخل میتابید، خودش را به زحمت از سوراخی میان دیوار به داخل میکشاند و به اندازه ی یک بند انگشت از نور زرینش را روی موش کوچولو میانداخت؛

چشمهای دسپرا نباید باز میبود
بچه موشهای بزرگتر، دور دسپرا حلقه زدند تا او را ببینند
خواهرش گفت: «گوشهایش خیلی بزرگ اند؛ من تا به حال گوشهایی به این بزرگی ندیده ام.»؛

یکی از برادرانش به نام فرلاف گفت: «نگاه کنید، چشمهایش بازند؛ پاپا چشمهایش بازند؛ نباید باز باشند»؛
همین طوراست؛ چشمهای دسپرا نباید باز میبودند، اما بودند؛ دسپرا به نور خورشید که پس از برخورد با آیینه ی مادرش منعکس میشد، خیره شده بود؛ نور بیضی شکل به سقف میتابید و او به آن لبخند میزد
پدر گفت: «یک چیزیش شده است، تنهایش بگذارید»؛
خواهر و برادر دسپرا عقب رفتند و از موش نوزاد فاصله گرفتند)؛ پایان

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 13/10/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 03/08/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Mischenko.
1,021 reviews97 followers
July 11, 2020
From the moment Despereaux the mouse was born, everyone knew he was different. Born extremely small with strange ears and the only survivor of the litter, his parents weren't sure if he could stay alive. As time goes on, Despereaux becomes quite a curious little critter and begins to question the world around him. He discovers a love for music and falls in love with a lovely princess named Pea. The issue is that Despereaux has gone against the rules put forth by the mouse council by showing himself to the princess, and now he must deal with the consequences by spending time in the dark dungeon below the castle. He's been ordered by the mouse council, including his father, and there's no turning back.

He considered fainting. He deemed it the only reasonable response to the situation in which he found himself, but then he remembered the words of the threadmaster: honor, courtesy, devotion, and bravery.

"I will be brave," thought Despereaux. "I will try to be brave like a knight in shining armor. I will be brave for Princess Pea." 

The book is told in four parts and the entire book setting takes place at the castle in the kingdom of Dor. The whole book is narrated by an omniscient narrator whom isn't related to the story, but remains the storyteller throughout. The first part begins with Despereaux and his family. The second covers a rat named Chiaroscuro (Roscuro) who is very confused and on the verge of becoming evil. The third book introduces a new character named Miggery Sow, a young girl who was abandoned by her father and wants nothing more than to become a princess just like Pea. The fourth and last part of the book is when all of these characters come together for the climax of the story and I have to say that their fate is never predictable.

Other characters include King Phillip (Pea's father-ruler of Dor), a jailer, a cook, and an evil rat in the dungeon named Botticelli. We honestly loved all of the characters. Each one had their own story and were well-developed. Despereaux was hands down my favorite character. Regardless of his size, he's very hopeful and courageous. His fear is always present, but his perseverance prevails. Miggery Sow was my son's favorite and she was likable with her eventual change of heart. We loved her language and her repeated use of the word "Gor!". My daughter's favorite character was Roscuro because you're never totally sure who's side he's going to take.

We found the story charming as it reads like a fairy tale. I was a little nervous once I realized that the book was told in separate parts. You get so invested in the first part and can't wait to find out what will unfold, and then there's the switch to a new book with new characters. I thought that format might derail us, but it didn't. We appreciated the sketched illustrations which enhance the story and bring the characters to life. There's a lot going on between characters and the action makes this a real page-turner. There were twists we didn't see coming and there was no telling what direction the story would take. I always love the themes in Kate DiCamillo's books and this story includes themes of love, revenge, courage, family and forgiveness.

Overall, Kate DiCamillo has woven another wonderful story for children that even adults can enjoy. I'm so glad I purchased this for our home library because I know it's one that we'll reread in the future!

Profile Image for Claire Greene.
23 reviews66 followers
April 30, 2008
I picked this book up on a whim in the Barnes & Noble because I liked the look of the cover and the jagged edges of the paper that gave it a "classic" feel. I was looking for a new bedtime book to read to my children - 2 and 6 at the time. We like to read a bigger book, one chapter each night - for bedtime stories. I read the description and thought it sounded like a good idea so I went ahead and bought it (which is REALLY unusual for me - I can be a cheapskate!) It is by far some of the best money I have ever spent. The book is really that good. While technically a children's story, I could have read this as an adult before I had kids and loved the book just as much - it is a story that is so beautiful, classic and timeless. The thing I think I love the most about her writing style is that she does NOT dumb anything down. Not the language, characters, plot, theme or anything. The style is like a story teller telling you the story, with some asides and speaking to the reader. Which added so much to the story. The book is paced perfectly (there were many nights we all wanted to just keep reading and reading!), and the chapters are perfect breaking points (I would not be surprised at all to find out that she purposefully chose the chapter breaks with nightly reading in mind - there is a wonder cliff hanger feel to each chapter ending. Every night my son would look at me with big eyes and say - I wonder what is going to happen next??!!) The themes are very complex, but everything is understandable even to young children (my 2 year old daughter was able to follow along without too much difficulty - but with a lot of word definitions!) I liked that it dealt with such big themes like duty and love and heartache and redemption and the reality of the world around you. (ie certain characters are not evil but mean, sometimes people do stupid things that you can't fix, etc.) I could go on all day about things that I loved and scenes that were so wonderful i can still see them in my head. We have read this as a family for bedtime stories 3 times now!! And given the chapter a night pace and the size of the book, that is no small feat! This is a book that I will save and give to my grandchildren. I can't recommend it enough!!

Also check out The Journey of Edward Tulane - we loved Despereaux more, but it is a very close call. That book is very similar and also wonderful.
Profile Image for Camille.
110 reviews2 followers
March 30, 2008
OK, so now that I've thought about what I really think about this book, I'm changing my rating from 3 stars to 2 stars. There was more that I didn't like than I liked. After hearing a lot good reports about this book, I think I was expecting something different. I liked the idea of the light versus dark. I liked the unlikely friendship between the mouse and the princess. I liked the forgiveness. And I liked that it ended up "happily ever after", for the most part.

I started out reading this book aloud to my boys, but I stopped reading to them after the first rat chapter and finished the book myself, then gave them the condensed version, picking up with the actual reading at the very end of the book. They were disturbed (and so was I) by the unfeeling evil of the rats. I felt even worse about the constant ear boxing and degredation of Miggery Sow.

I didn't go for another princess story without a mom. Just like all the Disney movies - Mom is deceased and Dad is oblivious. And what about the mouse family? Yikes!

I didn't like that the darkness in the story seemed to outweigh the light. The rat and Miggery Sow chapters were simply unpleasant. The lack of positive family feelings was sad. And what is this about Miggery Sow and a big kitchen knife? Hmm.

I guess I was anticipating more light. More love. More happy family feelings. I realize that the negative was essential to make the contrast between light and dark, but for me, there was just too much dark and not enough light. Especially for a prize winning book geared for young people.
Profile Image for emma.
1,869 reviews54.6k followers
December 15, 2021
i hated this book SO MUCH when i was a kid.

everyone thought i would like it. librarians recommended it to me. family friends gave it to me as a birthday present. other kids were reading it.

it was the newbery medal-winning book the year i was 6, and i was a tiny nerd. you do the math.

but even then, i did not care for books about animals, and i found this both corny and sad, a lethal combination for me my entire life.

i was a hater even in my extreme youth.

part of a series i'm doing in which i review books i read a long time ago and reveal that yes, i've always been like this
Profile Image for Kelly.
889 reviews4,125 followers
February 24, 2013
Absolutely enchanting. Full of compassion, sweetness and dreamers, with exquisite word choice and delicate rhythms. The narrator's voice is like a comforting but sharply intelligent grandmother, pushing you to both see and feel with the best of yourself. I started to read this this this morning for work purposes, I finished it because I couldn't put it down.
Profile Image for reading is my hustle.
1,508 reviews298 followers
January 29, 2020
Poor Miggery Sow; named after a pig, motherless, traded for peanuts, abused, and later described as lazy and fat. Crikey. Also, the author's penchant for describing things to the Reader drove me bananas. Despereaux actually has a small part considering the continuous horrors of the story: evil rats, ambivalent family members, the Queen's death, and the no soup decree.
Profile Image for Dimitris Hall.
374 reviews55 followers
August 10, 2016

I was thinking the other day: what would you do if you had a negative (and I mean really negative) opinion on a book but by chance happened to come across its author? What would you tell them if they asked you what you thought about their book?

Without the luxury of the internet or reviews or all the other ways we have of expressing a negative opinion on things without having to come into direct contact with their creator, we tend to be more insensitive with our criticism. The medium is the message... What is the message the medium of criticism conveys? That, perhaps, individual works of art can be analysed, praised or attacked as if they existed in a void - as if they weren't created by people with flaws and feelings. I understand that criticism is necessary in a world as saturated with works of art as the one we live in, if only for us to be able to timidly navigate through this ever-expanding sea of creativity. However, I also believe it's necessary to look at established institutions a little more, ahem, critically from time to time.

So: should we be writing criticism we wouldn't be able to say it to the authors' faces?

I'll let you ponder that a for a sec.


Done? Great! At this point I'll contradict myself, as I so happily and readily do, and say what I can say from the safety and isolation of my Goodreads account, albeit signed with my real name, a move I would predictably not make if I knew my review would be read by Kate DiCamillo and not get lost in the ego-stroking labyrinth of positive comments and reviews this piece of work has disappointingly received.

This, people, is one of the worst books I've ever read.

Terribly obnoxious, annoying, arbitrary characters; events I did not care about reading and that made me feel worse than before (what was up with the cauliflower ears? Come on!); an arrogant, didactic style of writing that's pretending not to be so but which cannot help but seep through... I'd go on but it's already been a couple of months since I read it so most of my vitriol has evaporated; that is, I can't really remember more of the exact reasons I didn't enjoy this book at all, but what I can tell you is that it managed to solidify itself in my memory as a bad reading experience, one that made me feel uncomfortable, a kind of uncanny sick inside. Maria did warn me, but I just had to sneak a peek at this train wreck... To not make this review longer than it should be, I'll just say that I'd never read this to my child.

At least it had beautiful illustrations.
Profile Image for Karen.
1,426 reviews201 followers
June 23, 2023

Is this a simple children’s hero story told in the style of a classic fairy tale?

I wondered.

I first saw it as a story of a mouse who is born different from “others.”

As he grows, he doesn’t develop an interest in typical mouse pursuits and is somewhat spurned by the mouse community.

One day he hears music and follows it through the walls to find himself in the princess’ room. He is now hopelessly in love with the princess.

When the mouse community hears about this, they condemn him to the dungeon, hoping he will be eaten by rats. (And this is the point I wonder – is this really a children’s story?)

As the story progresses, we meet many interesting characters.

Despereaux grows in strength and courage.

As I mentioned, I wondered if such darkness could make this a children’s read on their own kind of story. But I also felt that about Harry Potter, too. There is a lot of psychological realism here.

The actions of characters – they bring up some interesting talking points to address.

Would it be better for parents/teachers to address it with kids?

Darkness. Light. Good v. not so good. Being different. Class differences. Compassion.

Because of those points, it may make a good story to do as a read-together book. What do you think?

Profile Image for Apokripos.
146 reviews18 followers
April 11, 2011
Seeing the Light
(A Book Review of Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Desperaux)

Despereaux Tilling is the most unusual mouse you’lll likely meet. Conspicously small with considerable large ears, he has always been seen as different, an outsider among his own — a mouse drawn to music, fascinated with stories, and breaks the strict rule of their kind by falling in love with a human, the Princess Pea.

Roscuro leads a normal, rotten rat life in the dungeon, his is a world of utter darkness. Until one day, when a match was lit in front of his face and he ventures upstairs in the castle, he began to crave nothing but the color and light that he is denied, and and so vows to make others miserable, plunging them to the gloom which he is subjected.

Miggery Sow, “named after his fahter’s favorite prize-winning pig,” lost her mother when she was young. Her father abandoned and sold her away to an old man who boxed the girl’s ear until she became hard of hearing. Finally, on a fateful stroke of fortune, she came to the castle where she proved to be a slow-witted servant. But Mig has aspirations: she has seen the Princess and wants to become her.

These unique assortment of characters will set out to an adventure and stumble into each others lives in Kate DiCamillo’s 2004 Newbery award-winning novel, The Tale of Despereaux. For a long time I’ve looking for a children’s book that I will flat out love and this book has got to be it!

Beautifully told by a narrator that directly speaks to the reader, it has a delicate magic about it that holds the yours attention from start to finish, spellbound by the unfolding story page after page, seize by its peculiar storyline that jumps backwards and forwards into certain events in the tale that leaves you anticipating for what’s going to happen next.

Kate DiCamillo’s voice,trimmed with wit and wisdom, is wildly authorative — asking us questions; showing us a thing or two about what is disappointment, grief, prejudice, and forgiveness; sometimes instructing the reader to look up a particular word in the dictionary and pointing us about the consequences of certain actions — while at the same over the top, funny, and confiding yet in a manner that doesn’t feel intrusive, talks down to its reader or break the story’s pace. It’s a wondeful storyteller’s voice that makes every word beg to be read aloud.

Timothy Basil Ering’s sprightly illustrations add more dimension to its quirky characters and takes the reader a step beyond the world of Despereaux. The book’s lovely design gives this fairy tale a mythic feel that contributes to its over all enjoyment.

Over and above, what makes The Tale of Despereaux truly remarkable is that it boldly tackles weighty themes that regular children’s books would have avoided. Given that this is a fairy tale with talking animals as its characters, Kate DiCamillo dares to raise topics that are too close for comfort. She doesn’t shy away from or sugar-cost the darker aspects of her story by bringing to the fore subjects such as cruelties one can do to harm or hurt others, violence, child abuse and — the most awful of the lot — parental abandonment. Through Despereaux’s story we see the pains of being different and his search for love and acceptance, things that are not often freely given, sadly sometimes, by those who belong in our primal relationship or even by those who are close to us. Dealing with these raw emotions in a way makes me feel that it may not appeal to some readers, notable of which are parents who are cautious with what their children are reading and I at one see that this might not be an ideal bedtime story reading. But well-meaning parents please do check this one out!

Far from being gloomy, The Tale of Despereax is a book that celebrates courage in believing in yourself, honor, redemption, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. As a full-bodied soup, it warms and comforts the heart. As an entrée, the author serves up a satisfying meal in the grand tradition of the Grimm Brother’s fairy tales yet with distinction all its own and a balanced treatment of its main ingridient, the darkness and light, each equally important but with a decided appreciation towards the latter for just as the author declares “Stories are light.” Yes, I believe this story illuminates and will be cherieshed by children and child-at-hearts. It shines on.

And how did it end you ask?

It may not end up in the way they exactly wished for, as dreams aren’t realized in the way one hopes it to be. Still one can create it in a way it is need and can be achieved in more ways than one which goes to say that yes, Gentle Reader, each character deserves their own happily ever after.

Book Details:
Book #9 for 2011
Published by Candlewick Press
(Hardcover, First Edition 2003)
270 pages
Started: March 27, 2011
Finished: March 27, 2011
My Rating:★★★★★

[See this book review on my book blog Dark Chest of Wonders and for many others.]
Profile Image for ✧˖° lydia °˖✧ {semi-hiatus}.
195 reviews169 followers
September 20, 2023
I wish that I had read this when I was still a child, because I know I would’ve absolutely adored it and read it countless times.

But alas, I read it now, much older. And my silly, nostalgic little heart loves it just as much as if I had read it years ago. It’s such a charming, unique, hilarious tale of mice and princesses and thread and soup and honestly, it’s a gift to humanity. I have a feeling that no matter how many generations pass by, this book will still shine just as brightly as it does now. It has one of those timeless feels to it, like it could never be outdated.

It also made me extremely hungry for soup.
Profile Image for Debbie Zapata.
1,833 reviews44 followers
January 27, 2016
I never knew this was a book. I saw the movie of it on one of my bus trips north. Or maybe it was on the return trip south. Or even both, because I know I saw it twice. I thought the movie was wonderful, but as I say, I never knew it had been a book first. I just stumbled across the title while browsing at my favorite online used book seller one day and thought 'Oh, I have to get this!'

And the book was every bit as wonderful as the movie. Actually better, because I loved the way DiCamillo would address remarks directly to the Reader every so often. We are told to go look up the word perfidy in the dictionary. We are told to say the word quest out loud.It is an extraordinary word, isn't it? So small and yet so full of wonder, so full of hope.

And we are reminded of realities: Reader, you must know that an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform. Oh, speaking of rats: Rats have a sense of humor. Rats, in fact, think that life is very funny. And they are right, reader. They are right.

Our hero Despereaux does not conform. He did not fit into Mouse World from the day he was born. He had to learn to be himself. And his fate did involve rats, but it also involved love, hope, light, and of course soup.

Despereaux is supposed to eat the glue and pages of the books in the castle library, but instead he discovers that he can read, and he reads a story of a knight who rescues a princess. This story gives him the idea that will eventually be both his undoing and his salvation.

There is a Princess, who is not used to being told what to do. And there is a peasant girl is is not used to anything other than being told what to do. And getting clouted on the ear. I felt very sorry for this girl, named Miggery Sow. Her father sold her for a red blanket, a chicken, and a handful of cigarettes. She sees the Princess ride by one day and decides then that she wants to be a Princess too. But the world does not care what poor Mig wants. She is taken at one point from the man who bought her, put to work in the castle and eventually plays her part in Despereaux's quest.

Parts of the story were a little puzzling to me. Did Mig really have to get clouted on the ear so much? Was it necessary to have her (and later the King) described as not the sharpest knife in the drawer? This bit troubled me a little, but overall the book is fun, and would be great to read aloud.
Profile Image for Eliza.
596 reviews1,376 followers
April 29, 2017
3 stars

I remember reading this as a child and enjoying it, though I'm sure it wouldn't be as good as when I'd read it at eleven. Therefore, 3 stars seems good enough.
Profile Image for Truman32.
351 reviews104 followers
September 16, 2016
I had high hopes for Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux. What could I not like? It was about a tiny mouse with big ears, ostracized from the other mice, who fell in love with the human Princess Pea. Armed with only a sewing needle, Despereaux bravely goes to battle with the devious rats in the palace dungeon who have stolen her.

I mean, it’s got to be great, right?!!! So I took it on vacation with my six-year-old son to read to him at bedtimes.

Sadly, the story is slow paced and doesn’t contain enough action to hold the interest of a six-year-old boy or a 40something dad.

Inconceivably, DiCamillo spends the majority of the book writing about deaf serving girl Miggery Sow and the evil rat, Roscuro and not our hero mouse—something you would not expect in a book titled: The Tale of Despereaux. In fact in just a few minutes I have gone to the living room bookcase and grabbed Alex Haley’s Roots, To Kill a Mockingbird, Fifty Shades of Grey, and the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and they all contain more action concerning tiny mice with large ears named Despereaux then DiCamillo’s book. Gor! The running gag of striking Miggery Sow, (a young girl) in the ear (she ultimately goes deaf—ha?) made me uncomfortable and the ending showdown between mouse-knight and rats was anticlimactic and disappointing on so many levels.

On a positive note, my son says he did enjoy it and wants to see the movie, but I feel perhaps he saw how excited I was to read this and didn’t want to disappoint me.
Profile Image for Laura.
772 reviews280 followers
April 9, 2019
I've now read this for the third time, every time as an adult. This is a book about the power of love and kindness. It is about how we are more alike than we are different. Important ideas to reinforce, and becoming more important by the day.

Highly recommended to kids of all ages and the audio performance is beautifully and sensitively performed.


I loved this book. There are so many great lessons for kids about doing the right thing, being brave, forgiving and having empathy for others. It was very well-written. I also loved the author asides, as it brought an interesting flavor to the story and made it unique. The story itself was solid, but I liked the lessons and her delivery the best. I definitely want to read more by this author.

*read this book again, and loved it, maybe even more than before. I'm reading another by her now too. What a nice, gentle read with some great messages for kids.
Profile Image for Gloria.
2,091 reviews38 followers
July 27, 2008
This book left me with the feeling that this story may not appeal to all readers. There were several important themes addressed in the story, yet little emotional attachment to the characters. The only character that many might relate to is Despereaux himself. He is ‘different’ both physically and emotionally from his peers which at first mostly works against him, though ultimately these unique qualities eventually save the day.

I did really appreciate the way this author drew in the reader in a direct manner, literally addressing the reader in the story as if the author and reader are in this together. The author almost forces the reader to actively acknowledge the examples of forgiveness, the pain of being different, grief, prejudice, cruelty not only between natural enemies but also cruelty in those primary relationships with those who are supposed to love us, i.e., parents. There are also examples of compassion as shown by the princess, the cook, and a mouse.

One important concept was present throughout the story. Light is good and darkness is evil. Striving for light (and music) represents hope and all that is worth striving for. Even the evil rat wants this light in the form of possessing the princess. The dungeon, or darkness, is scary, dirty, confusing, and cruel. Death resides in the darkness. The message is clear, i.e., keep heading for the light.

I am glad the author did not end the story with a flip ‘happily ever after’ tone. Instead she showed how someone may not achieve exactly what they’d wished for, yet can still create a satisfactory life.

Perhaps cutting off a mouse tail, hitting a girl until she is deaf, abandoning a child to a male predator, and images of being murdered by a disgusting rat left me feeling a tad raw. I certainly do realize there are children who are treated terribly in our real world, but I struggle to believe that any child would particular want to read about it.
Profile Image for Katya.
271 reviews
February 28, 2023
"As histórias são luz. A luz é um tesouro, num mundo tão obscuro."

O pequeno Despereaux Tilling tem um grande coração de cavaleiro e um destino ainda maior à sua frente. Escolheu a sua princesa e traçou assim o seu caminho. Mas, mais do que isso, Despereaux ousou sonhar e, para concretizar esse sonho, irá numa corajosa demanda, e nada, nem ninguém, o deterá até que o seu destino se cumpra.

Despereaux é um ratinho como poderia ser qualquer criança (ou qualquer adulto com uma criança no coração), e um ratinho que, apesar do que lhe acontece, escolhe fazer com isso algo de bom. No seu caminho, contrariamente a tantas narrativas infantis idealistas, aguardam muitos momentos tristes, desoladores, solitários, que compõem qualquer demanda, cujo herói não escolhe e antes é por ela escolhido.

"A história não é bonita. Há violência nela. E crueldade. Mas as histórias que não são bonitas também têm um determinado valor, suponho. Nem tudo, como sabes (tendo vivido neste mundo o tempo suficiente para teres percebido uma ou outra coisa sozinho), é sempre doce e luminoso."

Despereaux encarna valores nobres como a lealdade, valores heróicos como a coragem, mas sobretudo valores normalmente considerados banais como a resiliência, a compreensão, ou a curiosidade. Mais do que tudo, Desperaux é um herói porque ousa quebrar as regras, ir contra as normas que ditam como um ratinho se deve comportar num mundo em que ratos, ratazanas e homens vivem vidas separadas com regras muito distintas.
Assim, descer ao reino de uns (escuridão), ou subir ao de outros (luz) representa uma infração indiscutível pela qual o pequeno futuro herói terá de pagar. Condenado a morrer nas masmorras, terá de enfrentar vários perigos para superar a demanda que o destino lhe impôs.

"Despereaux dormia. E, enquanto dormia, sonhava com janelas de vitrais e a escuridão das masmorras. No sonho de Despereaux, a luz ganhou vida, brilhante e gloriosa, com a forma de um cavaleiro brandindo uma espada. O cavaleiro lutava contra a escuridão. E a escuridão aparecia de várias formas."

Kate DiCamillo faz um excelente trabalho não só ao seguir os preceitos metafóricos e o tom simbólico das narrativas dos contos de fadas, como a seguir cuidadosamente aqueles que são os passos lendários da jornada dos grandes heróis:

Partida - o nascimento da demanda;
Iniciação - desafios da demanda;
Regresso - aprendizagem (que faz o herói).

Nada ficou por pensar neste pequenino livro onde perdoar e ser perdoado, amar e ser amado são qualidades maiores; onde escolher fazer o bem, escolher a compaixão são os valores que moldam os protagonistas por oposição aos seus antagonistas que escolhem perpetuar comportamentos negativos, violência ou vingança. A dualidade entre a luz e a escuridão, o bem e o mal, habita as páginas deste livro e por isso A Lenda de Despereaux é, também ela, cheia de luz (e sombras) e um tesouro por si só. Uma encantadora história onde os injustiçados se podem elevar pela força dos seus sonhos...

"- Não estás destinada a ser uma das nossas melhores criadas. Isso está muitíssimo claro.
- Pois, não, senhora - respondeu Mig. - Mas não faz mal, porque eu quero ser uma princesa."

...onde os desadaptados, os marginais vingam pela fidelidade aos seus valores únicos...

"Leitor, sabe que um destino interessante (às vezes com ratazanas, todas aquelas outras vezes não) aguarda quase todos, ratos ou homens, que não se conformem."

Narrativa sombria e mítica, porque de difícil sustentação, talvez, A Lenda de Despereaux quebra num final algo abrupto não deixando, ainda assim, de oferecer ao leitor uma agradável sensação de calor e uma pequena luz que ficará a brilhar no seu coração.

"«Adeus» é uma palavra que está cheia de tristeza, em qualquer língua. É uma palavra que não promete absolutamente nada."
Profile Image for Jon.
44 reviews
May 30, 2008
Some children's books are wonderfully odd. Others are just odd.

The story of Desperaux (a mouse who doesn't just want to be a mouse) is told through the eyes of several different characters. As the stories weave in an out of each other, they draw closer together until the predictably improbably ending.

Unfortunately, the characters in the world of Desperaux are all two dimensional; we are repeatedly told how bad the bad guys/rats are, and how good the good guys/mice are, and how clumsy a clumsy character is, and so on. The story weaves through adventure and emotion, without ever really connecting the two together. At times, the writing strains uncomfortably, as if the author was trying to hit a home run, but had to settle for a double. As if by sheer effort, she could make this book into a "classic", without first earning the affection of the readers.

Skip it, I say.

(Updated to add: The day I wrote this review, I come home to find that Becca (9 year old daughter) has checked out this book from her school library. So she liked it enough to read it again, and she's really enjoying it for the second time.)
Profile Image for Emily.
68 reviews
January 16, 2017
What a terrible book for children! Why did this win a Newberry Medal? Parents selling their children for a chicken and a tablecloth, parents dying and telling their children they don't care about what they want, parents sentencing their children to death because they don't act the way they would like, a mother naming her child Desperaux because he has big ears, a child being beaten to where she is nearly deaf, a mouses tail being cut off, I could go on and on. Also, the author has this annoying habit of talking to the reader--telling them to look up words, telling them it is their duty to read on, etc. Just tell the story and stop the useless chatter. It was just a bad story overall.
Profile Image for Spencer Orey.
557 reviews142 followers
October 23, 2021
My kid liked it. I found it to be a book that really gets in its own way.

Right when you're invested in Despereaux, it switches to a different character. And then it does the same thing again! The voice throughout has a cutesy way of constantly appealing to the reader right at the tense or powerful moments. Maybe that's supposed to help kids not get too emotional, but wow did I find it annoying. And there's a lot to get emotional about. Terrible things happen to the characters here, but it was like the book wouldn't fully commit to the horrible things it was portraying.

Then on top of all that, some generic and shallow things about darkness and light in people's hearts. Actually some terrible lessons to teach kids.

But it wraps up pretty well. And my kid was really excited to read it together.
Profile Image for Albablume.
226 reviews47 followers
September 1, 2019
For all of us who can still be mesmerized by these magical words: "Once upon a time..." this story defies time and age.

Once again, I picked up a book because of its beautiful cover and although it is mainly intended for children, I found it riveting and magical. I actually feel that, had I read this at a younger age, I would have missed plenty of it's subtlety and lyrical prose. So, definitely a new favourite for me.
Profile Image for Abigail McKenna.
582 reviews113 followers
April 25, 2022
"Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light."

This story and I have a long history. I fell madly in love with the film years ago, played the video game based on it, I was enchanted with the concept of a valiant little mouse who brought light back to a kingdom that desperately needed it. But somehow, I never read the book it was based on. Time went on, I look back on the film fondly but haven't watched it in years. Finally I decided, it was time. I was going to read "The Tale of Despereaux".

Let's start out by saying that this story is dark. Literally and metaphorically. Kate DiCamillo warns at the beginning that this story is not made of sweetness and light. A lot of the story is desperately sad, full of anger and revenge and adults failing children. There's violence and abuse and perfidy (which I did, in fact, have to look up) ((it means deceit))

But at the same time, the story is endlessly hopeful. Despereaux himself is a character you can't help but love, one who's just doing his best to be as noble as he can, charming at every turn. And did I want to cry every time another echo or parallel appeared between his story and that of Roscuro, Miggory Sow, and Princess Pea? ... why yes, yes I did.

So yes, I adored this book. It's scary and beautiful and captivating, all about forgiveness and trying your best. I'm almost glad it took me so long to read it, so I could read it just when I needed it. Five stars, easily. I loved it so much.

((also the theme song of this book is "enchanted" by taylor swift. no i will not elaborate.))

"Once upon a time," he said out loud to the darkness. He said these words because they were the best, the most powerful words that he knew and just the saying of them comforted him.
Profile Image for HBalikov.
1,788 reviews675 followers
June 6, 2020
This book won the Newberry Medal; more importantly is won the interest (dare I say “fascination”) of our 5-going-on-6 year old. It is a fantasy, and by that I mean that animals talk and have thoughts and desires that are not too different from humans.

The odd mouse, Despereaux, can also read, and read he does. He is fascinated by a story of a knight and a princess and bravery in a quest. He starts to see his world through the lens of that story. He falls in love with a human, Princess Pea, and that is the catalyst for several consequences in the human world, and then in the mouse world, and then in the rat world down below the castle.

There are other characters of importance and their separate stories all eventually come together. While DiCamillo weaves it all with great skill, she does not modify her language to the reading level of younger children. If you are reading to such a child (as we were) you have to make decisions as to when to stop and explain, or to stop only when requested, or to press on regardless. Our methodology was to move ahead unless there was a question or a puzzled look.

Which doesn’t mean that we didn’t take time to discuss situations involving evil deeds, careless acts and mistakes. The book took over a week to read and each of us felt it was worth the effort. If you give it a try, you will know soon enough whether it works for you and yours.
Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,633 followers
December 30, 2020
Having loved two previous books by DiCamillo, Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures and The Magician's Elephant, I thought that Despereaux would be a sure hit with my daughter. Unfortunately, she found the characters too two-dimensional and found she had no sympathy for either Despereaux ("why is he such an idiot, dad?") or Princess Pea ("she's so stupid, dad!") and rather sympathized with the bad rat, Roscuro ("rats aren't that bad, plus he just wants some light!"). So, although I did finish it and found it cute, my daughter gave up after the 3rd part, not to return. Perhaps other reviews can suggest another DiCamillo that might have the more positive reaction I got from Ulysses and the Magician's Elephant?
Profile Image for ava ୨୧.
106 reviews77 followers
August 14, 2023
“stories are magic”

thank you kate dicamillo for creating such magic that has carried me through childhood and beyond. your stories are unforgettable and timeless.
Profile Image for Suhailah.
222 reviews20 followers
April 9, 2023
This was a heartwarming and adventurous little story. Divided up into multiple character perspectives as four books, the Tale of Despereaux builds up to a beautiful and satisfying ending. It gives off a lot of fairytale vibes and brought back loads of nostalgia for me. If I had to choose something it reminded me of, I’d have to say the Shrek series mixed with an old fairytale full of harsh lessons and darkness.
It will definitely be a very memorable read for me! Despereaux was the cutest. He was a sickly sweet mouse who found his own worth through bravery and embarking on a quest!

I experienced this on audiobook, and the narrator did a great job keeping me captivated. I nearly finished this story in one sitting, it was so good. This was my first read of a Kate DiCamillo book, and I feel she has the quality of Roald Dahl. I will definitely be looking at her other books!

(I also discovered this book was made into a movie! Cannot wait to see it!)
Profile Image for David.
Author 68 books1,039 followers
January 19, 2022
Ah, the book with the abused enslaved deaf girl whom the author calls lazy, fat and slow-witted.

Yeah, no thanks. Not revisiting anytime soon.
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