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Published: Candlewick Press (MA) - April 11th, 2006
This is a fantasy story about a mouse, named Despereaux, who was not very mouse like, he loved music and stories and believed in honor, bravery, courtesy, devotion and most of all he loved the Princess Pea.
This is also the story of a rat, Chiaroscuro, who was not very rat like in that he was enamored of light. There is a third story of a girl named Miggery Sow who wanted, but no one ever cared about what Miggery Sow wanted. Lastly this is the story of how three separate stories merge and become one story in the end.
The tone of the book is a very personal one, conversational, as if the reader is in the confidence of the narrator. The narrator often addresses the reader, such as “reader, can you imagine your own father not voting against your being sent to a dungeon full of rats? Can you imagine him not saying one word in your defense?” or “Reader, do you believe that there is such a thing as happily ever after? Or, like Despereaux, have you too, begun to question the possibility of happy endings?” The narrator is often asking the reader to imagine themselves in the place of the characters, or inviting the reader to display empathy for the plight of the characters, and encouraging the reader to have compassion. Sometimes the narrator suggests that the reader has a responsibility or a duty, as in this passage, “Poor Mig. What will become of her? You must, frightened though you may be, read on and see for yourself. Reader it is your duty,” to care about the all the characters in the book.
This story deals with broken hearts, persevering in the face of opposition, of honor, of courage of compassion and of forgiveness. An example, that I believe is true for most of us “That is, Pea was aware suddenly of how fragile her heart was, how much darkness was inside it, fighting, always, with the light.”
I think this is an excellent book for children. Despereaux is an unlikely hero, he is too small, his ears are too big, and he is rather sickly. There are many obstacles to overcome and doubts to be dealt with but Despereaux continues on because he believes in his quest. The antagonist in this story isn’t one that the author portrays as really bad, Roscuro is confused and has seen light and wants more. Miggery Sow is another character that you can’t hate; her circumstances have not treated her kindly. As the three stories come together there is compassion, empathy, and forgiveness for all which not only saves Roscuro and Miggery Sow, but Despereaux and Princess Pea as well.
I really liked this book. I thought it was wonderful the way the author invited the reader to put themselves in the place of the characters, or asked the reader to ponder some subject such as consequences, “Every action, reader, no matter how small, has a consequence. For instance, the young Roscuro gnawed on Gregory the Jailer’s rope, and because he gnawed on the rope, a match was lit in his face, and because a match was lit in his face, his soul was set afire,” which then led to the rest of the events in the story. Mostly I love the idea that instead of fostering hate, there is the idea of compassion, forgiveness, light and love. The question of happily ever after was addressed at the end and the author said “yes and no and that is as it should be, that is the way life is.” -Jody