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 by Kate DiCamillo, Timothy Ering
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2003, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2006, 272 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Chapter One
the last one

THIS STORY BEGINS within the walls of a castle, with the birth of a mouse. A small mouse. The last mouse born to his parents and the only one of his litter to be born alive.

"Where are my babies?" said the exhausted mother when the ordeal was through. "Show to me my babies."

The father mouse held the one small mouse up high.

"There is only this one," he said. "The others are dead."

"Mon Dieu, just the one mouse baby?"

"Just the one. Will you name him?"

"All of that work for nothing," said the mother. She sighed. "It is so sad. It is such the disappointment." She was a French mouse who had arrived at the castle long ago in the luggage of a visiting French diplomat. "Disappointment" was one of her favorite words. She used it often.

"Will you name him?" repeated the father.

"Will I name him? Will I name him? Of course, I will name him, but he will only die like the others. Oh, so sad. Oh, such the tragedy."

The mouse mother held a handkerchief to her nose and then waved it in front of her face. She sniffed. "I will name him. Yes. I will name this mouse Despereaux, for all the sadness, for the many despairs in this place. Now, where is my mirror?"

Her husband handed her a small shard of mirror. The mouse mother, whose name was Antoinette, looked at her reflection and gasped aloud. "Toulèse," she said to one of her sons, "get for me my makeup bag. My eyes are a fright."

While Antoinette touched up her eye makeup, the mouse father put Despereaux down on a bed made of blanket scraps. The April sun, weak but determined, shone through a castle window and from there squeezed itself through a small hole in the wall and placed one golden finger on the little mouse.

The other, older mice children gathered around to stare at Despereaux.

"His ears are too big," said his sister Merlot. "Those are the biggest ears I've ever seen."

"Look," said a brother named Furlough, "his eyes are open. Pa, his eyes are open. They shouldn't be open."

It is true. Despereaux's eyes should not have been open. But they were. He was staring at the sun reflecting off his mother's mirror. The light was shining onto the ceiling in an oval of brilliance, and he was smiling up at the sight.

"There's something wrong with him," said the father. "Leave him alone."

Despereaux's brothers and sisters stepped back, away from the new mouse.

"This is the last," proclaimed Antoinette from her bed. "I will have no more mice babies. They are such the disappointment. They are hard on my beauty. They ruin, for me, my looks. This is the last one. No more."

"The last one," said the father. "And he'll be dead soon. He can't live. Not with his eyes open like that."

But, reader, he did live.

This is his story.



Chapter Two
such a disappointment

DESPEREAUX TILLING LIVED.

But his existence was cause for much speculation in the mouse community.

"He's the smallest mouse I've ever seen," said his aunt Florence. "It's ridiculous. No mouse has ever, ever been this small. Not even a Tilling." She looked at Despereaux through narrowed eyes as if she expected him to disappear entirely. "No mouse," she said again. "Ever."

Despereaux, his tail wrapped around his feet, stared back at her.

"Those are some big ears he's got, too," observed his uncle Alfred. "They look more like donkey ears, if you ask me."

"They are obscenely large ears," said Aunt Florence.

Despereaux wiggled his ears.

His aunt Florence gasped.

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!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: New People
    New People
    by Danzy Senna
    Danzy Senna has spent virtually her entire writing career exploring the complicated intersections of...
  • Book Jacket: Hunger
    Hunger
    by Roxane Gay
    In this penetrating and fearless memoir, author Roxane Gay discusses her battle with body acceptance...
  • Book Jacket: The Black Witch
    The Black Witch
    by Laurie Forest
    In The Black Witch, Laurie Forest introduces her readers to an immersive fantasy world where ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
News of the World by Paulette Jiles

A brilliant work of historical fiction that explores the boundaries of family, responsibility, honor, and trust.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Young Jane Young
    by Gabrielle Zevin

    From the author of The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry comes a novel that will have everyone talking.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Hame

Hame by Annalena McAfee

A rich, sultry novel about a young American fleeing a crumbling marriage for a remote Scottish island.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A F Out O W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

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

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.