Excerpt from The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, Timothy Ering, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Tale of Despereaux

Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread

By Kate DiCamillo, Timothy Ering

The Tale of Despereaux
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Aug 2003,
    272 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2006,
    272 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


"They say he was born with his eyes open," whispered Uncle Alfred.

Despereaux stared hard at his uncle.

"Impossible," said Aunt Florence. "No mouse, no matter how small or obscenely large-eared, is ever born with his eyes open. It simply isn't done."

"His pa, Lester, says he's not well," said Uncle Alfred.

Despereaux sneezed.

He said nothing in defense of himself. How could he? Everything his aunt and uncle said was true. He was ridiculously small. His ears were obscenely large. He had been born with his eyes open. And he was sickly. He coughed and sneezed so often that he carried a handkerchief in one paw at all times. He ran temperatures. He fainted at loud noises. Most alarming of all, he showed no interest in the things a mouse should show interest in.

He did not think constantly of food. He was not intent on tracking down every crumb. While his larger, older siblings ate, Despereaux stood with his head cocked to one side, holding very still.

"Do you hear that sweet, sweet sound?" he said.

"I hear the sound of cake crumbs falling out of people's mouths and hitting the floor," said his brother Toulèse. "That's what I hear."

"No . . . ," said Despereaux. "It's something else. It sounds like . . . um . . . honey."

"You might have big ears," said Toulèse, "but they're not attached right to your brain. You don't hear honey. You smell honey. When there's honey to smell. Which there isn't."

"Son!" barked Despereaux's father. "Snap to it. Get your head out of the clouds and hunt for crumbs."

"Please," said his mother, "look for the crumbs. Eat them to make your mama happy. You are such the skinny mouse. You are a disappointment to your mama."

"Sorry," said Despereaux. He lowered his head and sniffed the castle floor.

But, reader, he was not smelling.

He was listening, with his big ears, to the sweet sound that no other mouse seemed to hear.



Chapter Three
once upon a time

DESPEREAUX'S SIBLINGS tried to educate him in the ways of being a mouse. His brother Furlough took him on a tour of the castle to demonstrate the art of scurrying.

"Move side to side," instructed Furlough, scrabbling across the waxed castle floor. "Look over your shoulder all the time, first to the right, then to the left. Don't stop for anything."

But Despereaux wasn't listening to Furlough. He was staring at the light pouring in through the stained-glass windows of the castle. He stood on his hind legs and held his handkerchief over his heart and stared up, up, up into the brilliant light.

"Furlough," he said, "what is this thing? What are all these colors? Are we in heaven?"

"Cripes!" shouted Furlough from a far corner. "Don't stand there in the middle of the floor talking about heaven. Move! You're a mouse, not a man. You've got to scurry."

"What?" said Despereaux, still staring at the light.

But Furlough was gone.

He had, like a good mouse, disappeared into a hole in the molding.



Despereaux's sister Merlot took him into the castle library, where light came streaming in through tall, high windows and landed on the floor in bright yellow patches.

"Here," said Merlot, "follow me, small brother, and I will instruct you on the fine points of how to nibble paper."

Merlot scurried up a chair and from there hopped onto a table on which there sat a huge, open book.

"This way, small brother," she said as she crawled onto the pages of the book.

And Despereaux followed her from the chair, to the table, to the page.

"Now then," said Merlot. "This glue, here, is tasty, and the paper edges are crunchy and yummy, like so." She nibbled the edge of a page and then looked over at Despereaux.

From Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. Text copyright 2003 by Kate DiCamillo. Illustrations copyright 2003 by Timothy Basil Ering. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted or stored in an information retrieval system in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, taping, and recording, without prior written permission from the publisher, Candlewick Press.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Pope and Mussolini
    The Pope and Mussolini
    by David I. Kertzer
    The Pope and Mussolini is a riveting account of the parallel rise to power of the authoritarian ...
  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and amibtious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.