The Tale of Despereaux (unabridged audiobook), by Kate DiCamillo

The Tale of Despereaux (unabridged audiobook). By Kate DiCamillo.  Read by Graeme Malcolm.  Random House/Listening Library, 2005.  3 hours, 30 minutes.  $14.99

Plot: From the moment he is born, Despereaux is different.  He is smaller than the other mice his age and his ears are enormous, but what makes him the most different is his behavior and his ideas.  You see, Despereaux isn’t afraid of humans, and, in the mouse world, this is tantamount to heresy.  Despereaux lives in a castle and one day, he meets and falls in love with the beautiful, and very human, Princess Pea.  This is not acceptable to Despereaux’s family or community, so he is harshly punished.  That brings Despereaux to the dungeon, a dark, damp, hopeless place.  In the dungeon lived Chiaroscuro, a rat who loves light, going against all that rats hold dear, though he shared a dislike for mice with his rat brethren.   The story of Miggery Sow, a young girl who, after he mother’s death, was sold to a man by her father, is a tale of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment.  All Miggery, Mig for short, wants is to be a princess.  How do these disparate stories come together?  What will happen to Despereaux, Chiaroscuro, Mig, Princess Pea?  Will this “Fairy tale” end happily ever after?  This story is about hopes and dreams, being comfortable in one’s own skin/fur, and following one’s passion.  Written with feeling, humor, and suspense this book is a wonderful audiobook or read aloud book.

Review:  Graeme Malcolm’s melodious voice and British accent were a perfect match for this fantasy tale that takes place in a castle.  Characters, some heroic, some deeply flawed, come to life as their stories unfold on this audiobook.  Listening to the story allowed for time to consider more about the characters and their motivations.  Listening to the story also provided a wonderful opportunity to imagine and picture all of the characters and happenings.  This story is both dark and light, with some events that could be disturbing to some younger or more sensitive tweens.  It was unfortunate that Miggery Sow, the abused girl whose father sold her to a man, was represented as fat, which was a decidedly negative characterization as it was close on the heels of the description of her as being stupid as well.  The writing seemed to want to turn the reader/listener away from having sympathy or compassion for a girl who clearly deserved both.  Overall, a great fantasy to dive into and enjoy.

Genre(s): Fantasy, Adventure

Reading/Interest Level: 9-12 years

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

ISBN: 1400099137

Similar Books: Mrs. Frisby and  the Rats of NIMH, The Tiger Rising,

Subjects: fitting in, friendship, love, growing up, family, community, hopes, dreams,

Selected Awards: 2004 Newberry Medal (the book)