Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

The Tale of Despereaux

DiCamillo, Kate (Author)
Ering, Timothy Basil (Illustrator)
Candlewick Press 2006. 272 pages
First published: 2003
ISBN: 9780763625290 (paperback)
9780763617226 (hardcover)
9780763649432 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel

Text Elements:

point of view

Award

Newbery Medal – 2004

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Despereaux Tilling is a little mouse who loves stories, books and music; something of a romantic, he becomes smitten with Princess Pea, whose family owns the castle where the Tillings live. When the princess is kidnapped, Despereaux, with help from friends, sets out to find her, deep in the castle’s dungeons, where she is being held by Roscuro—full name Chiaroscuro—the rat. While most rats are creatures of darkness, Roscuro finds that light is beautiful, and longs to be let “upstairs,” against the prevailing belief of his species: “There is no light for rats.” After some battles, snipped tails, and the sorts of twists that befit a fairy tale, Despereaux, Pea and Roscuro find their happily ever afters.

The third-person omniscient point of view, whimsical names, frequent addresses to the reader, and assorted social stereotypes and literary tropes lend an archetypal aspect to the story, and the characters, all flawed in some way, but lovable and earnest, are enchanting.

Picking up on the central theme of dark and light, faded pencil drawings appear occasionally throughout the novel, representing, for instance, Roscuro hanging from a chandelier about to drop into the queen’s soup, a cluster of mice holding a meeting by candlelight, or Cook threatening Mig, whose father long ago sold her for a tablecloth, a hen and some cigarettes. Commoner or royal, human or rodent, “all living things have a heart. And the heart of any living thing can be broken.”

  •  The king has never met Despereaux and yet says “rodents know nothing of honour”. Discuss how a person can speak about another like this without ever having met them. How would you feel if this happened to you?
  •  

    The Mouse Council makes the rules, with harsh consequences for breaking them. Make a pros and cons list about this way of functioning. Write a persuasive text to argue where you stand.

  •  

    The narrator asks: “Reader, can you imagine your own father not voting against your being sent to a dungeon full of rats?” Write a text from the father’s point of view.

  •  

    Imagine spending your whole life in a dungeon and then emerging to see the wonders of the world. In your reader-writer’s notebook, describe what you are seeing and feeling grateful for.

  •  

    “Stories are light,” Gregory told Despereaux. What parts of this story brought you light or hope, or inspired empathy? Make a drawing of that moment with a detailed explanation below.

  •  

    Examine the illustrations and make predictions about the story.

  •  

    In pairs, read two assigned chapters. Take note of the characters, setting, problem/solution and sequence. Write the storyline for your chapters. Share your work with the class for an overview of the entire book. Discuss how everyone’s participation is needed to create the whole story.

  •  

    As you read, draw a map of the castle and kingdom. Trace Despereaux' journey.

  •  

    Create a character map for Despereaux. Discuss the mouse’s character with others to complete your map.

  •  

    Discuss how it is difficult for Despereaux to have a different view of the world from his mouse family and friends. Is it different in the human world?

  •  

    After reading, watch the movie and compare the story elements of both. Use a graphic organizer to share your observations.

  • To communicate appropriately
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To exercise critical judgment
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Ethics and Religious Culture
  • Geography, History and Citizenship