5 Apr 2009

Love, Honour, Perfidy and Soup

I don't like blasphemy in books. I really don't like it in children's books...not even when it is written in French. I especially don't like it when it appears on the very first page.

I almost stopped reading The Tale of Despereaux by Kate Di Camillo right there, on that very first page. I'm glad I didn't.

As it turns out, in fact, it was the blasphemy that made me read the book - in its entirety - last night after Jemimah went to bed.

It was our first cool night of the season - a beautiful sunny Sunday had segued into a crisp Autumn evening. We lit a lovely open fire in the sitting room and ate hot buttered toast with Vegemite, toasted over the fire on traditional brass toasting forks. We drank mugs of hot chocolate - the real stuff, made with real chocolate, milk and cream - and celebrated the end of a perfect day, snuggling under warm throws of angora and mohair. After Jemimah headed off to bed, we planned to watch The Shawshank Redemption on the box before heading off to bed ourselves. That is where Despereaux comes in.

Reader, you did not forget about our small mouse, did you?
You see, I was chatting to hubby about our plans for today - an hour or two of examinations, followed by a matinee showing of a film at our local cinema - you guessed it - the Tales of Despereaux. That's when I suddenly remembered the words...on the very first page...

And so, last night, I read the book. It's not a very difficult book to read in an hour or two mind you. It has a Lexile measure of 670 - about the same as The Muddle-Headed Wombat - and there are plenty of pictures and lots of white space around the pages. But what a fine book it is. It got me almost right away. I was engrossed. It is perfectly obvious why it won a Newberry Award - Kate DiCamillo truly has a way with words...

Despereaux Tilling is a mouse born with his eyes open, a very small mouse with very large ears. Despereaux loves music, fairy tales, and a princess - a human princess named Pea. But there is something very wrong with Despereaux. He is not well. He is deeply disturbed. A mouse that consorts with humans cannot be trusted. Despereaux must go to the dungeon to die. Despereaux must go to the rats.

Chiaroscuro is a rat. Roscuro lives in the darkness of the dungeon, but he covets the light. Roscuro has a plan to get to the light by capturing the princess. Yep, Despereaux's Princess Pea.

Despereaux must save his Princess at all costs. Despereaux and his beloved must live happily ever after... that's how all good fairy tales end...isn't it?

Reader, it is your destiny to find out.
Sometimes The Tale of Despereaux is sad. Really sad. The way the characters are treated - and the way some of them behave is not very nice. This will stop some families liking the book. Others like me will be concerned about the blasphemy. I haven't yet decided whether maybe I should read the book out loud to Jemimah instead of letting her read it herself, which had been my intention. I will read her the book though. It is fantabulous.

Most reviewers love the film version. Some say it strayed to far from the book; others say it's too violent. I'll let you know what we think after today. We're attending the 2 pm matinée.

PS The film is out on DVD tomorrow.

PPS Hubby enjoyed The Shawshank Redemption. I missed most of it - except the scenes in the library. Funny how the mention of classic books had me pricking up my ears!

The official Tales of Despereaux Movie website could occupy you for the rest of the day. Look for free downloadable games, coloring pages, word searches, connect the dots, posters, stickers, book covers, maze and much much more.


  1. hi :)

    what was the blasphemous bit, out of curiosity? {i haven't seen or heard naything about the film or book other than what i just read in your post}

    hope you are enjoying your holidays!
    {eowyn is changing kinders next term - closer - younger - smaller group! yay!}

  2. Hi Jeana,

    It is the one that rhymes with Sacre Bleu...the common French expletive.

    Hols are lovely. I hope Eowyn is happier next term. Will you be around over Easter?


  3. Hi Jeanne

    I found your blog a few weeks ago and have been following it ever since. I read your comments on CM and friends re:nature studies and decided to let you know how much I am enjoying your Australian views and homeschooling tips. I homeschooled my oldest 3 for 14 years until 2 1/2 yrs ago and am planning to begin again with a '2nd' family in the next few years so I'm interested in what's about now and your blogs offers plenty of that and just things of interest. Love it.

    Regards Sylvia

  4. Please tell if or how you like the film!! This was my son's favorite family read-aloud from last autumn here. We even spent our one theater-outing per year surprising him with the film.

    Def a read-aloud, though, I agree.

    Sorry haven't been around much--must be our Spring weather. I get batty indoors when the sun is sining without!!

  5. That would be shining...sun is s h i n i n g. :D

  6. B LOVED, I mean LOVED this book. I tried to read it, but kept nodding off. It just didn't grab me. We missed the movie since it didn't hang around long here, but the dvd should be here FINALLY from netflix for Easter weekend. The funny part on the commercial was drawing the cats!


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