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21 April 2010

Book Review: The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread
by Kate DiCamillo 

Gave this a quick read to see if my kid was ready for it. He's not. I wasn't either.

There's that part of fairy tale where the bad has to be so bad that there is no gray in the dark black of an evil heart, which makes it difficult for me to read children's literature sometimes. Though this book has mice and rats and princesses and girls with hearing problems that say "Gor!" a lot, I got caught up in the tragedy of a black heart, made black almost by happenstance, and how a black heart like that can devise revenge of a chilling nature.

I was pleased with some of DiCamillo's lesson-teaching; kindness and empathy wins the day (in a rather pat happy ending but this is children's literature, after all) but the road to the happy ending was too filled with narrow-minded, judgmental, needlessly cruel and dark characters. Characters who don't get one of those satisfying come-uppances that one hopes for in stories of this kind.

And though that is exactly what life is like, the bad guy might not win but he doesn't always lose either, I cringe when this truth blares out from the pages of a children's book. I probably shouldn't. But I do.

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