The Tale of Despereaux

Author: Kate DiCamillo
Reading Range: 4.7 ( AR Finder)
Interest Range: 4-8 (AR Finder)
Plot: The story is divided into four parts. The first three parts focus on a particular character. The first part focuses on Despereaux. It tells of his birth and of his life. He is an unusual mouse with big ears who does not act like a mouse. He can read and is interested in stories with knights. He falls in love with the Princess Pea. The Mouse Council condemns him to the dungeon with the rats because he talked to the princess and he does not act like a mouse. The second part focuses on the character of Chiaroscuro (Roscuro) who is a rat that lives in the dungeon of the castle. He does not act like a rat because he is attracted to light and he is actually a good “person.” One night, he goes into the castle main hall and accidentally scares the queen to death.He blames Princess Pea for what happened and he plots revenge against her. The third part focuses on Mig Sow. Her father sold her because her mother died. The man he sold her to abuses her. Eventually, she is taken to the castle where Princess Pea lives. The fourth part focuses on Roscuro’s revenge against Princess Pea. He uses Mig to take his revenge because he can manipulate her. Despereaux is the only one that can save her.
Review: All three characters want things that they are told they cannot have. Despereaux falls in love with the princess and wants to be apart of her world. Roscuro wants to live in the light. Mig wants to be a princess because she thinks they are “stars on the earth.” Each is denied what they want. Despereaux is told by the Mouse Council what he wants is wrong and that he breaks Mouse Law by wanting it. Roscuro is not welcome in the castle’s main hall. Mig is told by everyone she is pretty much worthless and will never be a princess. Roscuro is able to manipulate Mig because of that desire. In the story, everyone is saved not by the use of violence but because they are able to forgive each other. Despereaux is able to forgive his father for condemning him to death and become the knight he wants to be. Roscuro is able to forgive the princess for rejecting him. Although, his heart never completely heals. Mig is reunited with her father after he is imprisoned for crimes he committed. What I liked about this story is that there is still hope even in the darkest of times. Each character experiences their darkness times and they are able to overcome it in someway. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read fantasy and stories with knights and princesses. Even through the knight is a mouse.
Additional Info:
This book won a Newbery Medal.
Main Characters:

Despereaux Tilling-Despereaux is the last mouse born to his mother. He is an odd mouse even from birth. He was born with his eyes opened and the biggest ears of any mouse. He chooses to read books instead of eat them. He becomes fascinated with a story that features a knight and a princess. He falls in courtly love with Princess Pea.

Princess Pea-Princess Pea is the princess of Dor. She is the only child of the king and queen. She loves Despereaux in return. She is kind-hearted but not used to people telling her no.

Chiaroscuro (known as “Roscuro”)Roscuro was born in the castle dungeon. He is fascinated by light and goodness unlike the other rats. He seeks revenge against Princess Pea for his rejection in the human world.

Miggery “Mig” Sow-Mig’s mother died when she was young leaving her to her father. Her father sold her to a man who abused her. She is still well-meaning but simple. She wants to be a princess.

Botticelli Remorso-Botticelli is an old rat who lives in the dungeon. He believes the meaning of life is to cause the suffering of others. He delights in the pain and suffering of others.

Gregory the Jailor-Gregory saves Despereaux from the rats for the price of a story.

Furlough Tilling-Furlough is one of Desperaeux’s many brothers. He is the one who betrays Despereaux to the Mouse Council. He tried to teach Despereaux how to be a mouse but it did not take.

Lester Tilling-Lester is Despereaux’s father. He condemns Despereaux with the other members of the Mouse Council to the dungeon.

Antoinette Tilling-Antoinette is Despereaux’s mother. She is very picky about her appearance. She does not understand Despereaux.

Theme:  Darkness and light, Desire to escape, Good versus evil, Individual versus society

Bibliographic Info:

DiCamillo, K. (2004)  The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread.  Waterville, ME: Thorndike Press



2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ReadTweenTheLines
    Dec 09, 2012 @ 04:07:10

    You did a very wonderful and through job writing about the plot and the characters of this book Samantha. Since it looks like I’m the one that will start our book talk, I wanted to talk about the references to light and dark in the book. The difference between the two in literature is something that has always fascinated me. In fact, sometimes I notice myself thinking about it while I’m watching movies too!
    In reference to this book, we see light and dark in some strange places as well as some expected ones too. If we just think about the idea of light and dark, our minds should go directly to the castle. The upstairs of the castle is light and bright with the sun glairing through each and every window flooding the upstairs of the castle. On the contrary, there is the dudgeon. In the dungeon, there is nothing but stale darkness and the absence of light. Thinking further into this notion of the light and the dark in the various levels of the castle, we can think of light and dark as the presents of good and evil, of course. Down in the dark of the underground, there dwells the evil and vengeful rats, who all but one pine in the dark must of the dungeon. That one rat that is different, is Chiaroscuro. While I was reading the text I noticed that his name means something in Spanish. If you remove the prefix you are left with ‘oscuro’ which means dark. This got me thinking and I thought that I should do a very scholarly, Google, search. Upon searching I found that Chiaroscuro is “An effect of contrasted light and shadow created by light falling unevenly or from a particular direction on something.” Well, if that isn’t a play on words, I don’t know what is! I was wondering what different occurrences of light and dark you guys have found…or if you have found any other themes and motifs interesting.


    • sjv1983
      Dec 11, 2012 @ 01:44:17

      What was interesting to me was when the book talked about hearts. You talk about how Chiaroscuro means “an effect of contrasted light and shadow created by light falling unevenly or from a particular direction on something.” I think that is very interesting because when Roscuro’s heart is described in the book it healed crook. Roscuro has a path that is crooked because he is in the light but also in the darkness. This is different from many of the other characters. Despereaux’s heart healed after he forgive his father but his heart healed straight. I think this is important because Despereaux is totally a creature of the light. I feel for Roscuro because he is in the middle. He has a harder path to travel than the other characters. I think his name fits him.


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