Summary and book reviews of The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

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

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Book Summary

The beloved author of Because of Winn-Dixie enlightens us with a tale of adventure, despair, love, and soup.  Ages 8+. Read the first 3 chapters exclusively at BookBrowse.

Kate DiCamillo introduces a hero for all time!

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.

From the master storyteller who brought us Because of Winn-Dixie comes another classic, a fairy tale full of quirky, unforgettable characters, featuring twenty-four stunning black-and-white illustrations by Timothy Basil Ering, in an elegant design that pays tribute to the best in classic children’s books and bookmaking traditions.

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The Short of the Story

Despereaux Tilling, a small but adventurous mouse, is different from the other mice. His big dreams lead him out of the world of mice and into the worlds of people and rats. Along the way he discovers some surprising things about himself and those around him. In the end, Despereaux learns that even the tiniest mouse can be as brave and successful as a knight in shining armor.

Questions to Discuss
  1. How is Despereaux different from the other mice?

  2. What happens when Despereaux’s sister Merlot tries to teach him to nibble paper? How does this affect the rest of the story?

  3. Why does the King tell the Princess not to speak with Despereaux? When Despereaux leaves the Princess, he says to her, "I ...
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  • award image

    The John Newbery Medal
    2004

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Amazon.com - Karin Snelson

Children whose hopes and dreams burn secretly within their hearts will relate to this cast of outsiders who desire what is said to be out of their reach and dare to break "never-to-be-broken rules of conduct." Timothy Basil Ering's pencil illustrations are stunning, reflecting DiCamillo's extensive light and darkness imagery as well as the sweet, fragile nature of the tiny mouse hero who lives happily ever after. (Ages 9 and older)

Kirkus Reviews

... a tale with twists and turns, full of forbidden soup and ladles, rats lusting for mouse blood, a servant who wishes to be a princess, a knight in shining-or, at least, furry-armor, and all the ingredients of an old-fashioned drama. (Fiction. 7-12)

School Library Journal - Miriam Lang Budin

Gr 3 Up-This expanded fairy tale is entertaining, heartening, and, above all, great fun.

Booklist - Ilene Cooper

Starred Review. Gr. 3-6. Forgiveness, light, love, and soup. These essential ingredients combine into a tale that is as soul stirring as it is delicious....Ering's soft pencil illustrations reflect the story's charm.

Publishers Weekly

[Kate DiCamillo] shifts gears, demonstrating her versatility while once again proving her genius for mining the universal themes of childhood.... I must tell you, you are in for a treat. Ages 7-12.

Reader Reviews

Eppen

Good
It was good.

Valerie

The tale of despereaux
It the best book ever and it is also very touching. I loved it!!! I like these kinds of books where there are animals and people in it,even though it is non-realistic. I advise everyone to read it

kreena

Tales of Despereausx
It is a great book. I love this book. It is the best book I ever read. I really don't like to read books but I like this one.

unknown

my review
This is a amazing adventure story that lures you in. It is one of the best books I've ever read actually , it is the best book I've ever read. This book is actually 4 books in one. The first story is about Desperaux tilling. The second book is ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The last few years have been golden for Kate DiCamillo, and rightly so.  Her run of success started with Because of Winn Dixie in 2000, followed by the not so successful, The Tiger Rising. The came The Tale of Despereaux in 2003, Mercy Watson To The Rescue in 2005 and the very wonderful, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane in 2006.

She was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, raised in Clermont, Florida, and currently live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She says that "I hate to cook and love to eat. I am single and childless, but I have lots of friends and I am an aunt to three lovely children (Luke, Roxanne, and Max) and one not so lovely dog (Henry)."

Tim Ering illustrated Despereaux. His artwork has...

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