Review: The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kate DiCamillo weaves a tale that draws you in. A princess needs rescue. So do her captors. An likely hero, a mouse despised and rejected by his own elders, emerges to save the day. But the task is hopelessly impossible for him without... soup. Soup saves the mouse, who saves the princess. The princess offers forgiveness (and soup) to her captor. One captor saves another, which delivers another captor.

The author wears some literary tools on her sleeve. Forgiveness is light. Rejection is dark.

I found plenty of Biblical allusions, too, though they probably aren't intended by the author. The king is Saul, who loses a wife and daughter, has no hope, and dissuades Despereaux from his quest. Despereaux is Jesus, who is enabled by the Spirit (the soup) to rescue the princess. The aroma of Christ brings hope to the lowest and darkest dungeon of one's castle (or heart). The offer of a feast (soup/Spirit) delivers the antagonist from his dark and unforgiving heart.

I saw the movie first, then read the book, which is unusual for me. As usual, the movie underplayed the more important themes of forgiveness (hard to convey it in an adventure movie!). The literary device of directly addressing the reader was a little overdone, but just a stylistic quibble.

Great reading for your 8-15 year old!

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