Monday, February 2, 2015

Newbery Reviews: The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo (2004 Medal Winner)

I have read and re-read this classic, even in French. With its pure, fairy-tale simplicity and its sweet illustrations, it will no doubt be one of the Newbery winners people know for its story and not for the gold foil badge on its cover.
The Tale of Despereaux is about a mouse with oversized ears and an oversized hunger for gallantry. It is also about a lonesome, counterculture rat, a fair young princess, and an unhappy, half-deaf kitchen maid. Between its pages you will find meaningful lines easy for readers of all ages to understand.
However, unlike the film, which I love despite its deviations, the book has next to no comic relief, something I find necessary for middle grade. It also has some rule-breaking quirks, such as breaking the fourth wall, and referring to the characters not by their names but by some form of their titles, which could be considered either artistic or abruptly confusing. It also isn’t a book that makes you scream “WOW. That was amazing!”
What it is, though, is a quiet read, with a quiet story guaranteed to make you smile, and guaranteed to be remembered for a long time. It has already been labeled as a classic in its eleven years of existence, and deservedly so.

Rating: Four Stars
Favorite character: Roscuro
Favorite line: "There is nothing sweeter in this sad world than the sound of someone you love calling your name." 
Recommended age range: 8+
Content level for parents: none

For more Marvelous Middle Grade reviews, check out Shannon Messenger's post here


  1. I haven't read this one but do love other Kate DiCamillo books (Starting with Because of Winn DIxie). Your enthusiastic review puts this on the top of my TBR list. Thanks for sharing.

  2. This is probably my favorite DiCamillo book. I didn't notice the lack of humor when I read it, but I loved the rich language and old-fashioned feel. It feels like it was written ages ago, which I think is what makes it a classic. I'm sure it would be interesting to read in French.

  3. My daughters teacher read this book as a read aloud and it really got her interested in reading again! Great pick!