Friday, January 02, 2009

Rating : 4.0/5
Number of Pages : 272
Format : Novel
Reason for Reading : Book Awards Reading Challenge II

This charming tale is split into four distinct parts. The first tells Despereaux's perspective from his birth as the only surviving little mate of his mouse parents. He is born with over large ears, a tiny body and very unusually his eyes open. He isn't like the other mice. He isn't interested in crumbs or eating books, more in reading them and listening to music. He breaks many mouse taboos and the final straw is when he is seen at the feet of the human King and his daughter Princess Pea. He is exiled to the dungeon to be eaten by the evil rats, but things are not so simple.

The second book introduces the rat Chiaroscuro (Roscuro to his friends) who lives in the castle dungeon. Like the other rats he has never seen light and world above, but unlike the others he becomes mesmerised by it and is so enchanted by the light that he explores the upper world. He hangs from a chandelier and watches the Princess Pea in her twinkling clothes and crown below, when suddenly he falls into the Queen's soup with terrible consequences. The King outlaws both rats and soup in the aftermath and Roscuro returns to the dungeon plotting revenge on the Princess Pea.

Enter the final main character, Miggery (Mig) Sow. The poor girl was sold by her father after her mother died aged 6 for a red tablecloth, a hen and a packet of cigarettes. Her new owner "Uncle" regularly beats her around the ears causing her to become partially deaf. On her seventh birthday she sees Princess Pea and her family riding and dreams of one day becoming a Princess herself. When she later moves to the castler, Roscuro is keen to manipulate her dreams to exact his revenge. Can Despereaux the tiny mouse resuce the Princess and save the day?

I loved this children's book. Dark and bitter sweet in places, the ending was just right without being too over the top. The illustrations were beautiful and I loved the way the whole book was presented with torn page edges. Despereaux is a great character enchanted with fairy tales and this blends in elements of many in it's telling. Definitely one I will read again and if we get around to having our own chidlren it will be high on my list of books to read to them.

9 comments:

Nymeth said...

I'm glad you enjoy it! The other book of hers I've read, Edward Tulane, is just as good if not better. Like you said, I like how her stories are both dark and sweet.

Literary Feline said...

I saw an interview with the author a couple of months ago, which was really good. I don't normally read children's books, but this one is tempting! I am glad you enjoyed it.

Will you see the movie when it makes it out your way?

Rhinoa said...

Nymeth - I do hope to read more and there was a small sample of that book in the back of Despereaux and I am very tempted to get a copy. May put it on my birthday list as really trying to cut back on book buying until I change jobs. Having said that I did just orer 6 manga and 3 out of print Charles de Lint books...

Literary Feline - You will definitely enjoy and I suggest you make an exception. It's very adult in the same way as Coraline by Neil Gaiman and I loved the way she includes the reader in the story. I will miss the film I think unless I am really struggling for something to see. I talked to Mariel about it when she was over and neither of us like the animation style. It's too cutesy to fit with the story and I already have an idea of how it looks from the beautiful illustrations.

mariel said...

This is one of my favourite children's books of all time! I particularly love the illustrations. Glad you liked it!

DesLily said...

loved this book! I may see the movie, I do tend to see the "cartoons and cartoonish" movies as talented artists, so I can enjoy them too! Especially if they have good voiceover voices!

Alice Teh said...

I think I'm going to give this one a go. Thanks for the review!

Melody said...

I've just read a review on this from a fellow bookblogger earlier... I'll have to add this to my wishlist!

Susan said...

I just saw the movie in England! We took the kids after Christmas - they both really enjoyed it - so now it's time for the book. Good review, you make me want to read it for myself, too!

Josette said...

I just finished this book too and thought it was nice. The only thing that didn't make sense was how quick the Queen died! She must have had a weak heart or something.

But overall, an okay book for me. :) I enjoyed reading your review too.

Here is mine.