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The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread Paperback – 3 May 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books Ltd; New edition edition (3 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0744598699
  • ISBN-13: 978-0744598698
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 2.4 x 20.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 225,321 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

DiCamillo’s 2004 Newbery Medal-winning fairy tale, wittily subtitled ‘the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread’, is a huge change of direction for this successful American children’s author. Instead of another tale of real life, as seen in Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tiger Rising, DiCamillo brings her same style of delicate, literary simplicity to bear on a young fantasy that will be equally enduring and that is already equally lauded.

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. It’s 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 Despereaux’s 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 there’s 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 Ering’s stunning illustrations, The Tale of Despereaux is an old-fashioned adventure that is quite timeless. (Age 8 and over) --John McLay


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. "Toulese," 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." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A delightful book, lovingly written, with deceptively subtle illustrations by Timothy Ering that reveal surprising detail the harder one looks. A tale of a weird little mouse, a fairy-tale princess, a rather-not-be rat and a deaf serving girl whose paths cross in a web of love, bravery, intrigue and perfidy.
This is a gorgeous book for kids, aimed specifically at them with its large print, basic vocabulary, short chapters and direct contact with the reader. Nevertheless, it manages to captivate the older audience as well, making it a book that an adult enjoys reading to kids (and alone, if truth were told!).
Four 'books' are joined together by a red thread, so the story flows well, the believable characters have substance, and there is enough cliff-hanging drama to keep the smallest child pestering one for the next session.
Forget that stuff about it being 'too horrible' - kids love being frightened just a little.
I urge every parent to buy this for their children.*****
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By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on 20 Jun. 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful, moving, perfectly enchanting novel for children of all ages, and it more than lives up to the spirit of the John Newberry Medal it received as the year's "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." I had read a number of good things about The Tale of Despereaux, and the book actually exceeded my high expectations. Not only does Kate DiCamillo give us a moving, gripping story with wonderful characters; she teaches us a number of important lessons about life in the process. A similar set of circumstances leads several individuals down completely different yet converging roads in life, and this serves to illustrate the important fact that all of our actions and decisions have consequences for ourselves as well those around us. At the same time, DiCamillo reinforces the importance of love, forgiveness, imagination, determination, etc., in each of our lives.
Despereaux could be called the mouse that lived; the only survivor of his mother's last litter, he was born (in a castle) with large ears and with his eyes open; thus, from the very start, he was made fun of and constantly told there was something wrong with him. Truly, he was no ordinary mouse; light fascinated him, music stirred his soul, and a fairy tale he read (rather than gnaw on the pages) inspired his dreams. Drawn by the sound of music one day, he disregards the established rules of mice by not only approaching the king and his little girl but actually speaking to them. Despereaux falls madly in love with the princess, but his actions lead the mice council to send him to the dungeon - to the rats. These dungeon rats are mean and nasty, and they eat any mouse that is sent down to their domain.
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By A Customer on 18 Jan. 2006
Format: Hardcover
This books is amongst my top 5 children's books ever! Working in a library I get to see an awful lot of books but this one stands out from the rest. If you have a child between the ages of 2 and 12 this is perfect. It's a "lying down" book - perfect for cold nights, tucked up in bed and being read aloud.
Magical, humourous with wonderful illustrations - a very special book.
PLEASE buy it...or even better borrow it from your local library!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the best children's story I've read for a long long time! I love stories about animals, and I love stories about mice. Living in the country, it is not difficult for me to imagine little animals such as this as having little personalities with almost human traits! The illustrations - though somewhat faint and slightly 'misty' are a magic all their own - and quite delightful, and very interesting too when you look more closely! This is a truly wonderful book, and I don't often re-read novels, but I feel certain that before long I shall be SO wanting re-read this one!

This book has a good number of pages - but the writing is large, and the chapters very short which makes for lovely convenient breaks which I like - but be warned; your breaks shall not be very long! I found myself saying `just one more chapter' to myself before I would put it aside for any reasonable length of time! In fact, I was so delighted with this novel, I immediately went to look on Amazon, and purchased another by this same author! Now; you will understand the importance in this for me, when I say that I NEVER do this as a rule - no matter how good the book, and so this really must say something about this fabulous read!
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book for my daughter this is her review...'I thought this book was fantastically fanastic!!!! It is in bite size chapters and always keeps you hooked at the end of each chapter. I could not put the book down. Kate describes the characters really well and I got a really good picture in my mind. You must buy this book. It is FAB!'
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