Review by Louella Moreland
The 2003 books have been read! In
January, the announcement was made that Kate DiCamillo had won the
coveted Newbery Award for her delightful story "The Tale of
Despereaux." Actually, the full title is "The Tale of Despereaux
being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of
thread," adding the ingredients this story weaves into a
heartwarming, swashbuckling adventure and love story.
Love story? Yes, dear reader, for the
small mouse, Despereaux, is desperately in love with the Princess
Pea. He is not your usual mouse, of course, or there would be no
story to tell. Despereaux, the only surviving baby of his litter,
was born with very large ears and his eyes open. One of his first
sights was of a ray of April sun shining down from a crack in the
castle wall. Thus began the life of a mouse no one thought would
live… and his fascination with light and stories.
Despereaux, being an uncommon mouse,
soon finds himself in many predicaments. He loves to eavesdrop on
the royal family. He loves to listen to the king play his guitar and
sing to the princess. Then Despereaux does the unthinkable! He falls
in love with Princess Pea.
When Despereaux is caught speaking to
the princess (gasp!), the other castle mice banish him to the rats
in the dungeon. (After all, order must be maintained in the mouse
world!) Do you think this was too harsh a punishment? You are most
probably correct. However, do not most societies find a way to
punish, abandon or get rid of those deemed different?
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Ms. DiCamillo's simple little story
takes many such twists and turns, not just in the telling of the
story itself, but in the mirroring of the society of humans. Peel
away the surface of the adventure itself and we begin to see the
hidden layers beneath: prejudice, stereotyping, greed, power and
ignorance, to name a few.
Many children who read the book will
not see the complexities of the plot, which is the beauty of this
year's award winner! The story itself moves quickly with
well-rounded characters and cliffhanging chapters. Although there
are flashbacks to explain why certain laws of the kingdom were
begun, the storyline is easily understood, the chapters are short,
and the contents separated into four sections, or "books." The
detailed black-and-white drawings that illustrate the text are quite
detailed, adding a rich dimension to the characters and plot.
"The Tale of
Despereaux" will have widespread appeal to children and adults
alike. To check out this book and other Newbery Award winners, visit
us at Lincoln Public Library, 725 Pekin St.
[Louella Moreland, youth services librarian,
Public Library District]