An unnamed narrator tells the story of a mouse called Despereaux Tilling. He is a special mouse but few believe it at his time of birth. The sickly sole survivor of a large litter, Despereaux has large ears, a small stature and his eyes open way too soon. Its not natural! He can also read and hear sounds that no one else can hear--two very dangerous talents for a castle mouse like him. He is expected to die quickly--but confounds everyone when he fails to do so.
The novel is split into four parts, each book introducing different characters, and then intertwining them all together in a story that, though not told at breakneck speed, is quirky and unforgettable. After Despereauxs sad story, in which he falls deeply in love with the human Princess Pea and is greatly punished for his crime, we also meet Roscuro--a conniving rat whose love of light and soup get him in deep trouble too. And then theres Miggery Sow, a dim-witted peasant girl sold by her father for a red tablecloth, a hen and some cigarettes. Despite her hard life she has a wonderful dream to become a princess.
The writing is carefully crafted and the themes that are tackled are reassuringly familiar. Featuring Timothy Basil Erings stunning illustrations, The Tale of Despereaux is an old-fashioned adventure that is quite timeless. (Age 8 and over) --John McLay