The Tale of Despereaux

I have never heard before of Kate DiCamillo. If you have, why have you kept her a secret from me? I saw the movie Because of Winn-Dixie which was based upon the DiCamillo book of the same name, but the movie was so unimpressive that I did not feel impelled to run out and read the book. So, I have not known who she is.

Thankfully, Universal Studios has decided to turn her book The Tale of Despereaux into an animated feature. Colin, my eight year old son, and I saw a preview for it, and thought it would be a movie worth seeing. But first, it was suggested I read the book first.


Fortunately, Colin received the book for Christmas (what a surprise…) and we have started to read it. Let me say this – the book may make an unhappy turn at some point that will destroy everything, but to this point (about 1/3 through) the book is magical. She has us wondering whether there are still things such as happy endings (Colin thinks there are) and what the meaning of the word ‘perfidy’ is.

And to add intrigue to magic, we have the following passage. Despereaux, a small and unique mouse, is being sentenced to death for his breach of the mouse code. His French mother, Antoinette, who appears more show than substance, puts on what seems to be a display of sorrow as her son is led away. Here is how DeCamillo presents the scene:

At the last moment, Antoinette came out of her faint and shouted one word to her child.

That word, reader, was adieu.

Do you know the definition of adieu? Don’t bother with your dictionary. I will tell you.

Adieu is the French word for farewell.

“Farewell” is not the word that you would like to hear from your mother as you are being led to the dungeon by two oversize mice in black hoods.

Words that you would like to hear are “Take me instead. I will go to the dungeon in my son’s place.” There is a great deal of comfort in those words.

But, reader, there is no comfort in the word “Farewell,” even if you say it in French. “Farewell” is a word that, in any language, is full of sorrow. It is a word that promises absolutely nothing.

Well, reader, if you are a Christian, you know that the word we hear from our Father when facing our own eternal dungeon is not “farewell.” The words we here are “I will go in your place.” There is comfort there.

To see this spoken in a children’s story is a sublime joy.

4 thoughts on “The Tale of Despereaux

  1. Gail and Keith

    Keith and I saw the movie last week.It’s a delightful movie, with dark scenes which I feared would scare the daylights out of kids, but in this age kids are used to viewing much worse. The movie was a little slow going in the middle. I had already ordered the book before viewing the movie and am just reading through it. I love the author’s writing style. G

  2. Matthew

    This book is immensely popular at the book store Alissa works at. She is going to nab a copy next time they get one in for us to read to Isaiah. The cool thing is Kate DiCamillo wrote it while working at Half-Priced Books in TX. She since has quit for obvious reasons.Matthew

  3. Matthew

    Let me restate my previous comment. She may not have written the book while actively working at half-priced books. But I know she worked there!

  4. Randy Greenwald

    The Half-Price Books connection is a cool one! Maybe other employee/story tellers have a print future, eh?And yes, G, the writing style is captivating. Very conversational and fairy-tale-esque. I love it.

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