[Book Review] The Tale of Despereaux

The_Tale_of_Despereaux_coverTitle: The Tale of Despereaux
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Published: 2003 by Candlewick Press
Recommended for ages 7-12 and up


Here’s a description from the author’s website:

Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other’s lives. And what happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: “Reader, it is your destiny to find out.”


The hero of the story, Despereaux is a lovably courageous character, I think. An outcast in the mouse community who overcame adversity and achieved his dream. He went on a quest to save the human princess he so dearly loved.

All the characters had a pinch of darkness in them, but eventually, they saw the light because they had hope. Even in the slightest, teeny bit sense, there was still a glimmer of hope in their hearts. And that hope helped everyone in the story come to terms with their past and move forward in their lives.

I thought it was a very good story of love, hope, bravery, forgiveness, and redemption. It was a very nice story indeed. The story had a good flow and the narrative was nice and easy to follow. It was meant for children, but I liked that Ms. DiCamillo was unafraid to use challenging vocabulary. Sometimes big words were explained, sometimes they’re not, sometimes they’re just run through quickly.

There is a tad bit of violence (like some swordfighting and Despereaux’s tail being cut off) as well as some serious and dark tones in the book, but not overly so that it would frighten children. It’s still an appropriate read for kids.


  • “Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark.” – Gregory
  • But, reader, there is no comfort in the word “farewell,” even if you say it in French. “Farewell” is a word that,in any language, is full of sorrow. It is a word that promises absolutely nothing.
  • This is the danger of loving: No matter how powerful you are, no matter how many kingdoms you rule, you cannot stop those you love from dying.
  • Despereaux marveled at his own bravery. He admired his own defiance. And then, reader, he fainted.
  • Love, as we have already discussed, is a powerful, wonderful, ridiculous thing, capable of moving mountains. And spools of thread.
  • There are those hearts, reader, that never mend again once they are broken. Or if they do mend, they heal themselves in a crooked and lopsided way, as if sewn together by a careless craftsman. 
  • And hope is like love… a ridiculous, wonderful, powerful thing.
  • Reader, do you think it is a terrible thing to hope when there is really no reason to hope at all? Or is it (as the soldier said about happiness) something that you might just as well do, since,in the end, it really makes no difference to anyone but you?
  • Forgiveness, reader, is, I think, something very much like hope and love – a powerful, wonderful thing. And a ridiculous thing, too.
  • “Despereaux,” she whispered. And then she shouted it, “Despereaux!” Reader, nothing is sweeter in this sad world than the sound of someone you love calling your name. Nothing.


I liked the way the author wrote, telling the story as if talking to the reader. And I liked how she didn’t try to oversimplify the story and words. I think that makes the book lovelier than it already is. The story will raise good talking points for parents and children to discuss. Readers will learn something from it. I think it’s a wonderful story to read together with your children (or nephews, nieces, grandkids, etc.)

I think it’s a classic tale that readers of all ages would enjoy.  It was a relatively quick read that I enjoyed very much, and it would be my pleasure to read Ms. DiCamillo’s other works.

4 thoughts on “[Book Review] The Tale of Despereaux

  1. Pingback: [12 Days of Christmas] #12: A Mouse and a Sugar Plum Fairy | Undercover Bookworm

  2. Pingback: Farewell, 2014. Hello, 2015! | Undercover Bookworm

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