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The Tale of Despereaux

Last updated Friday, August 7, 2009

Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Timothy B. Ering
Date of Publication: 2003
ISBN: 0763617229
Grade Level: 3rd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Aug. 2009

Synopsis: 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. - School Library Journal

Note to readers:
•  Vocab:
•  ordeal
•  cocked
•  scurrying
•  remarkable
•  indignant
•  relishing
•  conform

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  What makes you different?
•  What makes the people that you know (brother/sister/parent/teacher/friend) different?
•  How do you feel about being different? Can people be different in good ways?
•  What is a disappointment? Have you ever been disappointed?
•  Do you have any distinctive physical features? How are they an advantage?

Craft ideas: To be posted soon ...

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don't have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!