Wednesday, July 20, 2011
The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo 
My Rating: 7.5/10
Quick Summary: A very small mouse with very large ears falls in love with a human princess. Trouble ensues, involving rats, soup, a dungeon, and humans of all sorts.
This was a book that managed to achieve that sort of wonderful timelessness that so many children's classics have. It could have been written 80 years ago, instead of 8. On the top, it has that simple, fairy tale feel, while all sorts of deeper themes lurk beneath the surface. Meditations on forgiveness, free will, human (and animal) nature, cruelty- there's a lot going on in this book.
Even so, there were times when I was slightly bothered by the anviliciousness of some of the characters (Miggery Sow troubled me the most), but that lack of subtlety is present in so many children's books- it's almost certainly something that wouldn't have bothered me when I was a kid, and only bugs me a bit now. Often times the extremes are rather funny, in a parental bonus sort of way. And again, there is a lot going on beneath the surface to make up for it.
However, for whatever reason, I didn't end up truly connecting with this book. I enjoyed it a lot, and appreciated many things about it. I imagine that I would have adored it if it had been around when I was small. But I approached it as an adult (which is sadly, a condition I cannot change), and there was something about it that said "this is not really meant for you". That, however, is more than fine, as DiCamillo wrote it for kids. For once, this is a Newbery winner that was not misaimed.