09 March 2014

The Tale of Despereaux : 2004 Newbery Award

I have started a new undertaking: reading every single Newbery Medal Winner book.  A number of them I have read in the past, but I am reading them with fresh eyes,and reviewing them for others. I am not reading them in order, as some will require some effort on my part to find them all.  Want to keep track of which books I read?  Check them out at Confessions of a Wannabe Reader!

Cover of the book - The image is used for identification purposes only under the fair use clause.

Despereaux Tilling: the Mousy Rule-Breaker

"Once upon a time, there was a mouse who was very small...... And there was a beautiful human princess whose name was Pea."

Thus is the tale of a lowly mouse, the littlest and last of a family of mice living in a castle,who breaks the rules of the mouse to become a legend of his own making.  The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread was written by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering.  It won the Newbery Medal in 2004.  It follows the story of Despereaux Tilling as he learns to love reading books instead of the paper they are on.  Music and light dazzle and amaze him, feeding him better than ordinary food.  Through this thirst for knowledge, he meets and falls in love with the human princess of the castle, Princess Pea.  Later, he must rescue her when evil comes up from the dungeons in the form of a light-loving rat named Chiaroscuro and his dim-witted accomplice, a human serving-maid by the name of Miggory Sow.

The book is an easy read, full of many descriptive passages and divided into four parts.  The story line echoed of themes and plot devices that were used in George MacDonald's books, The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie.  Similar themes and devices include; a humble and unlikely hero, evil that thrives in darkness, music and light being magical, forgiveness, and a resolution that leaves everyone feeling good about themselves.   The story reminded me also of Brian Jacques' Redwall series due to the use of animal characters.

Overall, I enjoyed this story, though the plot was somewhat predictable and the happily ever after ending reminded me that this is indeed a children's book.  

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