2004: The Tale of Despereaux (dissecting the mouse-rat dichotomy)

VERDICT: Meh

Sally’s Rating: 2.5/5

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo is a fairy tale-esque story of one mouse’s bravery in his quest to save a princess from an evil plot schemed up by some unsavory rats.

This book seems like it was written for a different medium. The style, wherein the narrator is consistently breaking the fourth wall to talk to the reader, would be better served either visually or through audio. It’s easy to understand why they developed this into a movie since it is very imaginative and creative with some very pretty illustrations that speak to the imagination. Yet, it reads very much like a children’s book with its many characters falling either on the light side or the dark side – there were not many characters that straddled the ambiguous line in between.

The main character, Despereaux, is just a bit too earnest for me. He embodies all of the traits of a classical hero – brave, courageous, willing to buck the trend and in awe of the beauty of a princess. While his tragic plight and exile by his own people was rather dark to read, he succumbs to being almost too perfect of a mouse-like hero, and it felt like the stakes were never high enough to care about throughout his adventure.

The Tale of Despereaux delves into the fun, quirky side of children’s literature with mice, rats and humans interacting amongst each other – each with different cultures, beliefs and traditions. The story emphasizes the idea of identity by exploring those who rebel against society while highlighting the theme of forgiveness. While this story was definitely not for me, others might be more appreciative of it if they enjoy reading about cute adventures with animal characters.

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