Wow, so I was apparently a little deprived as a child for not having read this. I guess I would have rather read about people than mice. But I’ve been looking for some third grade books to read aloud to my class and this one was recommended several times, so I figured I’d check it out. Oh my goodness, so cute! There are several things I loved about this story, but these are the two main ones:
First of all, Despereaux is such a great character.
He’s a great example of how being different isn’t wrong and how sometimes it’s hard for others to see that. He goes through his own difficult journey and comes out on-top, and you root for him the whole way. My only qualm is I felt like there wasn’t enough of Despereaux. Personally, I prefer it when books stick with the main character, and Despereaux’s was only in the forefront of the story in the beginning and at the end. I’m not saying that the middle wasn’t enjoyable though. Kate DiCamillo does a wonderful job building the story layer upon layer so that when you do get to the climax it has even more meaning.
Second of all, I loved the writing!
Wow, such a clear, story-telling voice that really draws the reader in. The style reminded me a lot of C.S. Lewis in The Chronicles of Narnia in how he would often directly address the reader to explain the meaning of a word or insert his opinion. Lemony Snicket is also known for doing this. In The Tale of Despereaux, Kate Dicamillo addresses the reader in a very gentle, yet truthful way. She’s blunt about what’s happening, but also narrates in a way that is suitable and compelling to children. It sort of felt like being read-aloud to, even though I read it on my own. I love the way she addresses the reader as “dear reader” or just “reader” throughout, and I also appreciate the way she doesn’t oversimplify the vocabulary. I’m a firm believer in exposing children to rich vocabulary at a young age. There are times when she explains what the words mean (similar to Lewis and Snicket) but other times she just lets the word be, allowing the reader to come to their own conclusions.
In all it was a very unique, enjoyable read and I look forward to reading it to my class!