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