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.