Thursday, 6 August 2009

Tale of Despereaux - Book Review

I'm going to do something I've never done on this site before: give a 'negative' review.

I did not like the Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. But the reasons I did not like it are precisely the reasons why children will/do.

I've been reading fantasy since I was a child. I no longer need 'help' in feeling I'm inside the novel. Kate DiCamillo employed a writing style wherein she asks the reader to 'picture' things or 'feel' things. She also addresses the reader so often that, for me, it made it harder to stay in the story. But this is just the sort of language that helps kids feel like they are participating in the action. In fact, I imagine reading this story to a child would be a lot of fun.

Another thing that made it hard for me was the constant starting and stopping of the story by way of introducing another main character. This is not a story that reads linearly. There are three beginnings. Each one brings the reader up to speed about the lives of the characters - Despereaux (the tiny mouse), Roscuro (the evil - or not so evil - rat), and Miggery Sow (the unwitting facilitator of Roscuro's revenge). Again, for children, this works.

The chapters are all short, adhering a child's attention span. And any difficult words introduced are also explained within the text, making this a potentially good reading primer for young children.

Finally, the writing is superb. If you're an adult reading this to yourself, well, it's a matter of taste. But I'd suggest finding a child to share the story with. There are several fun characters if you like telling stories with 'voices'.


Dan said...

I was surprised at your negative review. For myself, I love this book and it is my favorite of what DiCamillo has written. Then, I did read this book out loud to my daughter. This book reading is still remembered as the most fun we had, only followed closely by Treasure Island, which, apart from the fantastic story, is fun to read just because of the pirate-y talk.

Reading out loud, I found that each character came with his or her or its own voice, just as with the characters in Because of Winn Dixie. Sorry you were disappointed.

Lori Devoti said...

This is one of my daughter's top two favorite books. Her top? Because of Winn Dixie. :)