Monday, October 6, 2008

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The #1 National Bestseller and winner of the John Newbery Medal.

Now, I clearly do not fall in the suggested age group of 7-12 for this book, but if you read the reports on The Tale of Despereaux, you will hear that it is the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea.
Really? No, it’s about a pathetic little mouse who is hated by his family because he is different! He is small and has bizarrely large ears! His mother vows never to have another baby mouse ever again because this one was such a disappointment! He is sent to the dungeon (essentially the death penalty) by his own father and escorted down death row by his brother simply because he broke the rules! He is in love with a princess who - obviously - could never love him back.
It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. Yeah, and when he works his way out of the dungeon to enjoy the light, his mere appearance at the King’s dinner party causes such a commotion, he ends up in the Queen’s soup, the sight of which kills her!
So the mouse’s beloved little princess sees her mom die right before her eyes from a rat sighting! And the rat who loves light feels so guilty, he resorts to a life of disgusting ratness. He was good and actually turned bad!
And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. Yeah, a slow-witted serving girl who’s father sold her to an abusive “uncle” for a tablecloth and some cigarettes (and a chicken, I think). “Uncle” beats Miggery Sow, who was named after her father’s favorite pig, until she forms cauliflower ears and loses her hearing! When she finds her way to the castle to work as a serving girl, she is beaten there, too, and it is announced regularly that nobody cares about her or her wishes!
So she teams up with the good-gone-bad rat and kidnaps the princess, cuts off the little mouse’s tail with a kitchen knife and steals the princess’s crown which is too large for her abnormally shrunken head and sinks down to land, with an OUCH, on her painfully deformed ears.
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."
No, I’ll just tell you, the Happily Ever After is anticlimactic to say the least. The Sow girl reunites with her father - the one who sold her to Mr. Abusive - and he treats her like a princess from now on. Whoop de freakin’ do!
The princess, who couldn’t fall in love with the mouse who risked his life, lost his tail, and faced horrible obstacles to save her, gave him the ol’ “just friends” routine.
So, apparently, a children’s author can do every nasty, cruel thing she wants to her characters, as long as she wraps it up in the end with a half-ass happy ending!
I don’t get it.
Well, it’s now a major motion picture, so I guess you can just go watch it, if you are still curious, and don’t mind the inevitable nightmares.

Down will come baby, cradle and all....

1 comment:

3 is a Magic Number said...

I loved this book too!! It is one of my top recommended books to my students!!!