*This review is SPOILER FREE*
Reader you must know that an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform.
That quote is one that perfectly describes the main non-human characters, in The Tale of Despereaux. This story, a middle grade fantasy, centers around Despereaux, a wonderfully strange mouse, Chiaroscuro (aka Roscuro)-a non-conforming rat, and a wishing girl named Miggery Sow. DiCamillo’s beautiful narration skillfully weaves three interwoven stories involving revenge, love, betrayal, hope, soup, forgiveness and a princess. I truly admired the way DiCamillo writes and came across quite a few quote worthy lines:
Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark. Begin at the beginning. Tell Gregory a story. Make some light.
I had watched the animated movie a few years ago when it first came out, LOVED the narration and really enjoyed the story so when I saw it at the bookstore the other day I picked it up. It’s a pretty light read broken up into four short books, and is something I’d recommend to any young child or even grown-ups that enjoy stories with thought-provoking messages and gripping story telling. This would honestly be one of my favorites if I had read it as a kid.
The only thing I wasn’t too keen on were the characters. I kind of liked Despereaux and the princess was okay… I guess (there wasn’t much to her character), but couldn’t find much to like about Rosuro and (namely) Miggery. It actually made reading their POV’s pretty difficult for me to get through since I honestly didn’t really care what they had to say. Since Despereaux is the protagonist of the story, I guess it makes sense for him to be the most likable, though- I hate to admit this as someone who ALWAYS complains about how much better the book is- I couldn’t help but feel like the movie had more appealing versions of the characters, especially Chiaroscuro. Getting to know the original Roscuro and his much darker past, and being able to compare and contrast them both is something I appreciate being able to do, but in the end I actually liked the movie version of him better (particularly because I felt it made his later actions more impactful). This may be only because I had watched and loved the movie first instead of the other way around, but it’s the truth. The movie does change, sugar-coat (quite a bit) and leave out a few things that I love in the book, but otherwise I think the movie did a fairly good job at adapting it.
Overall I truly enjoyed this tale of a non-conforming mouse, a rat that strived to defy darkness, and…well…a far dreaming serving girl. A solid 6.5/10 unicorn horns