Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Unlikely Hero

The Tale of Despereaux by Katie DiCamillo, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering

The instant Despereaux was born everyone knew that he was different. Even for a mouse he was too small and his ears were too big. But Despereaux does not mind being different, he is looking for adventure when the other mice simply cower and run away. In looking for adventure Despereaux meets the Princess Pea and decides that he wants to devote his life to her service. It is because of Despereaux that an evil plot by a rat will be foiled and that soup will once again be eaten in the kingdom.

The movie version of The Tale of Despereaux like all adaptations of books takes some license with the story. And unfortunately like most movie versions I do not think it was as good as the book. I did enjoy the movie version though despite the changes to the story. The movie version is at the same time lighter and darker than the book. In the movie version our villain Roscuro is not the true villain and finds redemption and happiness at the end. While in the book Roscuro is given forgiveness but his heart was too crooked to ever really be happy. The real villain in the movie is Botticelli, and he gets killed at the end. While in the book nothing happens to Botticelli, he stays in the dungeon with the other rats for the rest of his life.

What I liked about the book and movie version is Despereaux's desire to be a knight and to live with honor. It is always fun to read a children's book with a true hero figure, no matter how unlikely that figure may be. Despereaux is everything a hero should be, honest, brave, and courageous, even though he is a mouse. I like that DiCamillo gave children a different hero, to let them know that you do not have to be big and strong to do the right thing. I also love children's books where the hero is on a quest or adventure that has some danger in it. The reader is worried quite a few times for Despereaux's safety and it only makes him that much more likable when he is victorious in overcoming his obstacles. I highly recommend this book for boys or girls ages 8-12. This could also be a great read aloud for a younger audience.

I would read the book first and then see the movie if you could, I find that it is more fun to have read the book before I see the movie version. Are there any strong opinions you have about book or movie first?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this post; I am starting an "Unlikely Hero" unit in my classroom and unfortunately have yet to read "The Tale of Despereaux". It was by happenstance that I saw your post and I am now going to be including this book in our unit. I am sure that my students will be just as excited as I am to read this book. Thanks again!