Yesterday during the commercials of House Hunters International and Criminal Minds and then in Keagan’s future big-boy bed at midnight, I read The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread by Kate DiCamillo. Reading this book, just another on my 100 Greatest List, reminded me of the fun that is fiction. So far I have read 19 (and two halves) of the books on my list and each has been so different from the others. I mean, the Harry Potter books certainly have a lot in common and The Little Prince reminded me a lot of The Phantom Tollbooth, but overall in just the 1/5th of the books I have read from this list, there have been so many differences.
I have read about orphans and alien princes, wizards and mice, hobbits and toads, crazy amounts of made-up creatures that live in the crazy wonderland of Fantasia, giant armored bears and just plain kids trying to figure things out. I have traveled to Hogwarts, to New York museums, back in time and to far off lands. Just over two months into this challenge I have already learned more about myself, about writing, and about the God who created it all.
For some reason Kate DiCamillo’s writing style really stuck out to me as different than so many other authors. DiCamillo tells a little tale about a mouse, a rat, a princess, and a servant girl and how their four lives intersect. The narrative manages to stay simple while containing incredible depth. The Tale of Despereaux contains wonderful commentaries on love, light, and darkness. So far this little novel is my favorite novel starring animal protagonists – much more enjoyable than The Wind in the Willows.
I hope that the many children and adults that read books like The Tale of Despereaux (Like you! Read it!) are reminded of the wide worlds that exist inside our minds and can be shared with the world through the written word. Who would’ve imagined that a dare-to-be-different mouse and a seeker-of-the-light rat would ever intersect lives with a capable-of-deep-love-even-in-the-face-of-loss princess and a neglected-yet-hopeful servant girl? Things like that don’t happen in real life.
Sometimes its the made up relationships between rodents and girls or girls and armored bears or witches and wizards that can highlight the morals and lessons that we can learn from our own relationships between people and people. Or people and cats. I really like my cats.
The Tale of Despereaux teaches us to seek the light even in the midst of the most penetrating darkness, to hope even when you feel that nobody is on your side, to forgive even when it’s hard, and to look past the hurtful actions of others to the experiences that might have caused that hurt. Plus it features talking rodents and a ridiculous ban on soup. That’s a book worth reading.