The Tale of Despereaux

( 1037 )

Overview

"Forgiveness, light, love, and soup. These essential ingredients combine into a tale that is as soul-stirring as it is delicious." — BOOKLIST (starred review)

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 ...

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The Tale of Despereaux

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Overview

"Forgiveness, light, love, and soup. These essential ingredients combine into a tale that is as soul-stirring as it is delicious." — BOOKLIST (starred review)

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. 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, with twenty-four stunning black-and-white illustrations by Timothy Basil Ering. This paperback edition pays tribute to the book's classicdesign, featuring a rough front and elegant gold stamping.

The adventures of Desperaux Tilling, a small mouse of unusual talents, the princess that he loves, the servant girl who longs to be a princess, and a devious rat determined to bring them all to ruin.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Winner of the 2004 Newbery Medal, this superbly suspenseful tale of a little mouse with big aspirations comes from Kate DiCamillo, author of another Newbery Honor book, Because of Winn-Dixie.

In lilting storytelling language reminiscent of fairy tales of old, DiCamillo spins the yarn of Despereaux Tilling, a literate mouse who lives by a different code and happens to fall in love with a real princess. Despereaux is anxious to profess his love, but when he tells his community of his dreams, he gets banished into the dark dungeon where mice never leave. Adjacent to Despereaux's dilemma is the story of a rat named Chiaroscuro, ruthless in personality and in love with making his way toward light. When these two characters eventually collide -- along with Miggery Sow, a down-and-out servant who aims to become a princess of her own -- the result is a heroic, surprising heartwarmer that brings families together, gives hope to underdogs everywhere, and teems with justice.

Outdoing herself with this simply told yet marvelously complex tale, DiCamillo provides readers with a hero to savor. Timothy Basil Ering's illustrations provide just the right personality to the text, which beckons to be read and reread, even aloud. One fanciful tale to sink your teeth into. Matt Warner

The New York Times
… a terrific, bravura performance. — Jerry Griswold
Publishers Weekly
The author of Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tiger Rising here shifts gears, demonstrating her versatility while once again proving her genius for mining the universal themes of childhood. Her third novel calls to mind Henry Fielding's Tom Jones; DiCamillo's omniscient narrator assumes a similarly irreverent yet compassionate tone and also addresses readers directly. Despereaux, the diminutive mouse hero ("The last mouse born to his parents and the only one of his litter to be born alive"), cares not a whit for such mundane matters as scurrying or nibbling, and disappoints his family at every turn. When his sister tries to teach him to devour a book, for example ("This glue, here, is tasty, and the paper edges are crunchy and yummy, like so"), Despereaux discovers instead "a delicious and wonderful phrase: Once upon a time"-a discovery that will change his life. The author introduces all of the elements of the subtitle, masterfully linking them without overlap. A key factor unmentioned in the subtitle is a villainous rat, Chiaroscuro (dwelling in the darkness of the Princess's dungeon, but drawn to the light). Ering (The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone) brings an understated drama to the black-and-white illustrations that punctuate each chapter. His artwork conveys a respect for the characters even as they emit the wry humor of the narrator's voice. The teller of the tale roots for the hero and thus aligns himself with the audience: "Reader, you must know that an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform." In addition to these life lessons, the narrator also savors a pointer or two about language (after the use of the word "perfidy," the narrator asks, "Reader, do you know what `perfidy' means? I have a feeling you do, based on the little scene that has just unfolded here. But you should look up the word in your dictionary, just to be sure"). Reader, I will let you imagine, for now, how these witticisms of our omniscient narrator come into play; but I must tell you, you are in for a treat. Ages 7-12. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
VOYA
Despereaux is the smallest mouse in the castle, with the largest ears and the most romantic heart. He falls in love with the human Princess Pea and is banished to the dungeon by his fellow mice. Meanwhile, the rat Chiaroscuro falls in love with light. When he leaves the dungeon to pursue his love, he frightens the queen to death and ends up back where he started with a healthy grudge against Princess Pea. Out in the town, a girl the same age as the princess, named Miggery Sow, is sold into slavery by her father. She takes many nasty beatings but dreams of being a princess herself one day. All three stories entwine in the final part of the book in a satisfying and not surprisingly happy ending for nearly everyone. At times, DiCamillo's new fantasy novel is charming, by turns sad, sweet, and mildly scary. At other times, though, the conceit of the narrator addressing the reader directly wears thin. The characters are all well limned, although the princess is, perhaps, too perfect. The story's twists and intertwinings are all believable, but each character is given their own "book" within the novel, and the pacing is thrown off. First Despereaux's story is told to a point. Then Chiaroscuro's story is told to a point. Then Miggery's story is told to a point. Finally, they all come together. Although this story would make an excellent read aloud for the young, most young adults will likely feel that the narration is condescending. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P M (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8). 2003, Candlewick, 272p,
— Timothy Capehart
Children's Literature
In 2000 Kate DiCamillo got the Newbery Honor award for Because of Winn-Dixie (Candlewick, $5.99, ages 9-12), the story of a lonely young girl who finds sense of community because of a dog who discovers her. This year DiCamillo captured the Newbery itself with the help of an extraordinary character, Despereaux, the winning hero of The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread. He's a tiny mouse with a huge heart who loves a princess and would do anything for her. But he's not the only unique character, the book is divided between other remarkable personalities and their engaging stories. There's Roscuro, a dungeon-born rat who seeks light, Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who only wants to be listened to, and the Princess herself, who still grieves for her mother. Each character's desires, hopes and fears combine in this marvelous questing fantasy. This is a tale made for reading aloud and family enjoyment. If reading aloud is not your forte, there's a wonderful recording by Graeme Malcolm (Listening Library, $25.00, unabridged, 3 cassettes). 2003, Candlewick, Ages 8 to 12.
— Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
Gr 3 Up-A charming story of unlikely heroes whose destinies entwine to bring about a joyful resolution. Foremost is Despereaux, a diminutive mouse who, as depicted in Ering's pencil drawings, is one of the most endearing of his ilk ever to appear in children's books. His mother, who is French, declares him to be "such the disappointment" at his birth and the rest of his family seems to agree that he is very odd: his ears are too big and his eyes open far too soon and they all expect him to die quickly. Of course, he doesn't. Then there is the human Princess Pea, with whom Despereaux falls deeply (one might say desperately) in love. She appreciates him despite her father's prejudice against rodents. Next is Roscuro, a rat with an uncharacteristic love of light and soup. Both these predilections get him into trouble. And finally, there is Miggery Sow, a peasant girl so dim that she believes she can become a princess. With a masterful hand, DiCamillo weaves four story lines together in a witty, suspenseful narrative that begs to be read aloud. In her authorial asides, she hearkens back to literary traditions as old as those used by Henry Fielding. In her observations of the political machinations and follies of rodent and human societies, she reminds adult readers of George Orwell. But the unpredictable twists of plot, the fanciful characterizations, and the sweetness of tone are DiCamillo's own. This expanded fairy tale is entertaining, heartening, and, above all, great fun.-Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Dear reader, light your lamp and listen to the tale of Despereaux, the last mouse born of Antoinette. Born with his eyes open and ears much too large, Despereaux seems destined for early death. A true Renaissance mouse, he can hear honey, read words, and appreciate fine music. But he cannot conform to the strictures of the mouse world. Rodents and humans don't mix, yet he falls in love with the Princess Pea, earning the wrath of all the mice in the castle. The melodramatic voice of the narrator glides through DiCamillo's entirely pleasing tale, at times addressing the reader directly, at others, moving the reader back and forward in time. Never does she abandon the reader in the dungeon with Despereaux, the dark-hearted rats, or the guard and fellow inmate, Gregory. And so unwinds 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)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763625290
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 4/11/2006
  • Series: Tale of Despereaux Series
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 13,462
  • Age range: 9 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 670L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 7.74 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

KATE DICAMILLO lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is the author of The Tale of Despereaux, which won the Newbery Medal, and The Tiger Rising, which was named a National Book Award Finalist.

Biography

Kate DiCamillo was born in Philadelphia, moved to Florida's warmer climate when she was five years old, and landed in Minneapolis in her 20s.

While working at a children's bookstore, DiCamillo wrote her first novel, Because of Winn-Dixie (2000). It was inspired by one of the worst winters in Minnesota, when she became homesick for Florida after overhearing a little girl with a southern accent. One thing led to another, and soon DiCamillo had created the voice of Opal Buloni, a resilient ten-year-old girl who has just moved to a small town in Florida with her father. Opal's mother abandoned the family when she was three years old, and her father has a hard time explaining why.

Thoug her father is busy and she has no friends, Opal's life takes a turn for the better when she adopts a fun-loving stray dog, Winn-Dixie (named after the supermarket where she found him, out in the parking lot). With Winn-Dixie as her guide, Opal makes friends with the eccentric people of her new town and even convinces her father to talk about her mother. Through Opal, readers are given a gift: a funny and heartrending story of how one girl's spirit can change her life and others'. Critics loved the book as much as readers, and in 2001, Because of Winn-Dixie was named a Newbery Honor Book.

DiCamillo's second novel, The Tiger Rising (2001), also deals with the importance of friendships, families, and making changes. Twelve-year-old Rob Horton and his father are dealing with grief, anger, and isolation after moving to Lister, Florida, six months after Rob's mother succumbs to cancer. Rob's father has a job at a motel (where they both also live), but it barely pays the bills. Struggling through the loss of his mother, Rob stifles his many confusing emotions as he battles bullies at his new school, worries about a rash on his legs, and copes with living in poverty.

In many ways, The Tiger Rising is a darker, more challenging story than Because of Winn-Dixie, but there is a similar light of deliverance in this beautiful novel: the healing power of friendship. Two meetings change Rob's life. First, he encounters a caged lion in the woods. Shortly thereafter he meets Sistine, who has recently moved to Lister after her parents' divorce. Sistine and Rob are polar opposites -- she stands up to the school bullies and lets out every bit of her anger at her parents' divorce and her relocation. Through Sistine, Rob recognizes himself in the caged lion, and the story of how the two children free the beast is one of the most engaging reads in contemporary young adult fiction. With the lion free, Rob is free to grieve the loss of his mother and move on with his bittersweet new life in Lister. A National Book Award finalist, The Tiger Rising is hard to put down as it overflows with raw, engaging emotion.

In 2003, DiCamillo's third novel, The Tale of Despereaux, was released to the delight of readers and critics alike. This odd but enthralling fairy tale also touches on some of the topics from her first two novels -- parental abandonment and finding the courage to be yourself. The hero, Despereaux Tilling, is a mouse who has always been different from the rest of his family, and to make matters worse, he has broken a serious rule: interacting with humans, particularly Princess Pea, who captures his heart. When Despereaux finds himself in trouble with the mouse community, he is saddened to learn that his father will not defend him. Characters in the tale are Princess Pea, whose mother died after seeing a rat in her soup; King Pea, who, in his grief, declares that no soup may be served anywhere in the kingdom; Miggery Sow, a servant girl who dreams of being a princess after being sold into servitude by her father after her mother dies; and Roscuro, a villainous rat with a curious soup obsession.

The story of how the characters' paths cross makes The Tale of Despereaux an adventurous read, reminiscent of Grimm's fairy tales. In the spirit of love and forgiveness, Despereaux changes everyone's life, including his own. As the unnamed, witty narrator of the novel tells us, "Every action, reader, no matter how small, has a consequence." Kate DiCamillo's limitless imagination and her talent for emotional storytelling earned her one of the most prestigious honors a children's author can receive -- in 2004, she was awarded the Newbery Medal.

Good To Know

DiCamillo wrote The Tale of Despereaux for a friend's son, who had asked her to write a story for him about a hero with large ears.

In our interview, DiCamillo shared some other fun facts with us: :

"I can't cook and I'm always on the lookout for a free meal."

"I love dogs and I'm an aunt to a very bad dog named Henry."

"My first job was at McDonald's. I was overjoyed when I got a nickel raise."

"I'm a pretty boring person. I like reading. I like eating dinner out with friends. I like walking Henry. And I like to laugh."

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    1. Hometown:
      Minneapolis, Minnesota
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 25, 1964
    2. Place of Birth:
      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, University of Florida at Gainesville, 1987

Read an 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.

______

THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering. Text copyright (c) 2006 by Kate DiCamillo. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 1037 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(754)

4 Star

(148)

3 Star

(73)

2 Star

(26)

1 Star

(36)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1041 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 20, 2008

    Wow

    First off I am 23. I love to read but I really need a book to grab me or I'll just put it down. The Tale Of Despereaux was such an amazing book I gave it to my wife and told her she HAD to read it. I bought the hard back for our future children and now I just can't wait to read it to them! This book has everything! Adventure, Romance, Happy endings and Good fun. I really felt like I was in the book!

    58 out of 68 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    But reader, he did live.

    Through those nights I've felt alone, felt the walls closing in, felt like no one will ever understand me, I pick this up. I'm 16, and this book has helped me through so much I can't even begin to explain... All I can say is if you've ever felt alone, if you've ever felt those walls, if you've ever felt like no one will understand, then maybe, just maybe, a certain little Despereaux Tilling will raise his sewing needle and tell you a story. All you have to do is listen, dear Listener. And you will know.

    51 out of 67 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    What a delightful story!!

    I picked up this book and couldn't put it down. It was a nice easy read, but so well written and entertaining. I recommend it to everyone! Despereaux, the brave little mouse!

    31 out of 36 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2008

    An incredibly rare gem...

    I have never read such a beautiful, pure book in my entire life. Some people may believe that this book is childish or boring just because the story appears so simple, but it really isn't! DiCamillo puts the story together in a way that I have never experienced, and I've read a lot of books! You will never find another book as adoringly wonderful as The Tale of Despereaux. I recommend this book to ages eight to one-hundred and eight.

    25 out of 31 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 18, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Great

    This was a great book. The illustrations were wonderful, the story sweet. my daughter loved it too.

    22 out of 28 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    A Great Way to Hook Readers!

    I'm already a fan of Kate DiCamillo, but this story quickly became one of my favorites with its lovable and believable characters. This is an example of quality character development. It's hard not to fall in love with Despereaux! I love to use it in my elementary class as a way to get kids hooked into reading, as this is a book that keeps drawing you further and further in until you don't want to put it down! This is sure to become a timeless tale that everyone should own.

    20 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2012

    First off i am 12

    I could read this story over and over again it was my favorite book. My first time reading it was when i was 9. Me and my mom read it everyday and everynight!!! Any way to get to my point, i would strongly recomend this book if you are a reader who cant find things u like to read so just pick up any book :) I am one of those people.

    18 out of 23 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    Great book

    This was an amazing book. Amazingly wonderful book. I couldn't stop reading it.

    17 out of 22 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2012

    Great for all ages!!!

    I loved this book! I read it in third grade and was dumfounded! It may be a long book, but I love the plot and story line. It follows a little mouse throught many adventures. He learns many things along the way back to his family again. He makes new friends and meets new enemys, but otherewise, greatest book in the world! Anyone who loves fantasy, medieval, and animals all in one book, this is just for you!

    17 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2012

    Anonymous posted april 16 2012

    This book was excellent. I look for newberry books cuz im 10 but this was amazing. Now im reading another newberry by kate dicamillo. The book is so interesting. It shows that everyone from a rat to a princess has a story. That is special.

    15 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2012

    Lovelovelove this book!

    This is a great book! So sweet i couldnt put it down. Loved it ALOT!!!!!!!

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2012

    Jamie :)

    I <3 this book its really good
    Btw they made a movie out of it :) i have seen it.

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2012

    Best

    This is absoutley the best book i haveever read. And im 11!!!!

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2011

    Coming from a teacher... A 4-7th grade teacher.

    Hi. I am a teacher and I love reading. My student are in 5th grade, so I asked for a show of hands on who has read "The Tale of Despereaux". No one raised a hand. So I set them up a challenge. I handed each of them a copy of the book and their mouths dropped in amazement. Now these students are always saying tht they HATE reading. I said that the first one to finish got a prize. That motivated them. Five minutes later, a student raised their hand and said " All I know is that by reading the first paragraph I could tell this book is amazing. Once everyone finished, I asked them what they thought and they all said that it was the best story they had ever finished reading and that they would read it again. I read it before they did and I ABSOLUTLY LOVED it.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 14, 2008

    A good book!

    Lately, it seems like all of my favorite books have been turned into movies: Ember, Twilight... even Narnia! Now I can add this movie into my collection when it comes out. If the movie is half as good as the book, EVERY one will like it.

    9 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 21, 2013

    Have you ever thought that mice like to dream about fairy tales?

    Have you ever thought that mice like to dream about fairy tales? You probably haven't, because mice don't do that. Except for one mouse in particular.
    Meet Despereaux Tilling.

    Right from his birth, everyone knew he was odd, especially with those huge ears, and his unusually tiny body. But a world needs at least one person--or mouse--to be different than the rest.
    Because of his oddities, Despereaux sees more, hears more, and knows more about the human world than any other mouse. All this helps him win the heart of the human Princess Pea, who lives in the castle.

    Also in this enchanting story you'll find other characters, all dreaming to have something they can't have, but wanting it more than anything.
    What can one tiny mouse with big ears do, to help everyone out?
    The only way to know is to read &quot;The Tale of Despereaux&quot;.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2013

    Wonderfull book

    There a lot of lessons and i love the authors way with words. This book is a must-have.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2013

    I HAVE ALWAYS LOVED THIS BOOK!

    Read it you wont regret it!

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2013

    Despereaux , a brave little mouse has problems being a mouse. Th

    Despereaux , a brave little mouse has problems being a mouse. The little mouse wanted to be brave, wanted to be a gentlemen. Despereaux throughout the story breaks the mouse world rules and goes through the castle finding princess pea. From there he’s wants to be the brave prince.  The mouse comes into some problems in the book. While Despereaux still wouldn't act like a mouse, he is thrown in the dungeon with rats. There, he meets a rat name roscuro which helps him stay alive and get out to save the princess.   This book is Appropriate for ages 6 and up.  I recommend this book for all kids who want a adventurous, and loaded with fun kinda book. This story is all you want adventure, thrill, and all sorts of things to make you put down everything and pick up this book!    Now at the end of the story, Despereaux jumps into save the princess and wins over all the rats! Now the Worker for Princess Pea, takes advantage of her dream and wears Pea’s crown and gets treated like a real princess. Now, has everybody in the story as come to an ending point, Roscuro, the second to the main character, finally comes together with despereaux and gets aways from the other rats!    




    6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2013

    Like it

    I have been reading this book with my class at school and where aup to the last chapter.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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