The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo is a heart-wrenching tale of love and mistakes and regret camouflaged as a middle grade novel.
I loved DiCamillo's Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and I loved Tale of Despereaux. They're both clearly by the same author but Despereaux is written a bit differently as the whole story is directed to the Reader. I really appreciated this technique as it gave the whole novel a Jane Austenian flare. From the outside the story sounds incredibly silly: a mouse falls in love with a human and is sent to his death but instead escapes to rescue the human? Silly. Appropriate only for those who still believe in miracles and mysterious creatures who bring presents to your house. But DiCamillo's anthropomorphism of animals is incredible. Despereaux becomes real. Even though he's clearly still written as a mouse, it's possible to suspend disbelief and really believe that all mice can talk and think and feel as clearly as humans do. And that's what really affected me. DiCamillo has this graceful way of seeing directly into hearts and exposing the hopes and dreams that reside there in really powerful ways.
I cannot think of a single complaint. I understand why this won a Newbery medal. I haven't seen the film so I don't know how faithful the animated adaptation is, but I can see why someone would read this and want to create a film adaptation. It's lovely and tender and if I ever end up teaching middle grade students, I would want to use this as a classroom text.
Favorite quotes: "Love is ridiculous. But love is also wonderful. And powerful."
"[T]hankfully there is evil in the world. And the presence of evil guarantees the existence of prisoners."
""All living things have a heart. And the heart of any living thing can be broken."
"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."
"Forgiveness, reader, is, I think, something very much like hope and love, a powerful, wonderful thing."
Middle Grade March Count: 12