The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo, is a beautiful story, lovingly told, with illustrations by Timothy Basil Ering. It is the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who loves music, stories, and a princess. It is also the story of Roscuro, a rat who lives in the dark of the castle dungeon but yearns for light. It is also the story of a poor girl with the unfortunate name of Miggery Sow, who wants to be loved. The paths of these three will cross as they struggle against what is expected of them and become something greater.
I loved this children’s book, which won a Newbery Medal in 2004. In Kate DiCamillo’s acceptance speech (which is in the back of the book), she explains a little of how she had come to write the story. She tells about a librarian who took the time to praise a little girl, saying, “Kate is a true Reader!” How vital this is in every child’s life, to have someone open the world of books to them, to give them the encouragement they need to go forward. She also tells of a time when as a child, she betrayed her brother, and how she felt bad about it ever since. But in her character of Despereaux, she redeems herself.
In her speech, Kate says, “This is the other great, good gift of stories that acknowledge the existence of darkness. Yes, the stories say: darkness lies within you, and darkness lies without, but look, you have choices. You can take action. You can, if you choose, go back into the dungeon of regret and fear. You can, even though there is every reason to despair, choose to hope. You can, in spite of so much hate, choose to love. You can acknowledge the wrong done to you and choose, anyway, to forgive.” (pg.281-282)
This is what makes The Tale of Despereaux a classic. It will go on being read and enjoyed through the years, not just by children, but by everyone. Thank you, Kate, for a great book.