Publisher: Candlewick Press

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo | Book Thoughts

Posted March 3, 2014 by Jana in Book Review, Inner Child, Middle Grade, That Artsy Librarian / 5 Comments

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo | Book ThoughtsThe Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
Published by Candlewick Press on September 9, 2008
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 272
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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5 Stars

Welcome to the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse who is in love with music, stories, and a princess named Pea. It is also the story of a rat called Roscuro, who lives in the darkness and covets a world filled with light. And it is the story of Miggery Sow, a slow-witted serving girl who harbors a simple, impossible wish. These three characters are about to embark on a journey that will lead them down into a horrible dungeon, up into a glittering castle, and, ultimately, into each other's lives. What happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: Reader, it is your destiny to find out.

While it is a TON of work, I am so thankful that my children’s lit class is forcing me to read so many of the books I missed out on as a kid. The following is not really a review, but more of my thoughts on the book from an educational perspective.

I love how the author speaks to the reader directly, either to ask them to think about what is happening on a more psychological level, or just to explain a complicated word she has used in her story. I think this is a wonderful way to write to children, as it includes them and makes them a part of the reading experience.

There are so many beautiful messages and lessons that can be found if you really think about the symbolism of this story. I can think of so many discussions that could be built off of the quotes below:

Finding/being oneself:

Reader, you must know that an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform.

Despereaux stood before the Mouse Council, and he realized that he was a different mouse than he had been the last time he faced them. He had been to the dungeon and back up out of it. He knew things that they would never know; what they thought of him, he realized, did not matter, not at all.”
I particularly love this quote. It is so symbolic of our trials and tribulations changing us as we learn and grown from them.


Reader, you may ask this question; in fact, you must ask this question: Is it ridiculous for a very small, sickly, big-eared mouse to fall in love with a beautiful human princess named Pea? The answer is … yes. Of course, it’s ridiculous. Love is ridiculous. But love is also wonderful. And powerful.

Did you think that rats do not have hearts? Wrong. All living things have a heart. And the heart of any living thing can be broken.

There is a danger of loving: No matter how powerful you are, no matter how many kingdoms you rule, you cannot stop those you love from dying.

And hope is like love … a ridiculous, wonderful, powerful thing.

Reader, nothing is sweeter in this sad world than the sound of someone you love calling your name. Nothing.

Being discouraged:

Reader, do you believe that there is such a things as happily ever after? Or, like Despereaux, have you, too, begun to question the possibility of happy endings?

There is a lot of talk in the story about our actions having consequences, no matter how insignificant we think those actions are at the time.

Every action, reader, no matter how small, has a consequence.

Light and dark, and the symbolism of each: Light is thought of to be happiness and goodness. It’s music. It’s love. Dark is considered to be scary, evil, and sad.

Stories are lights. Light is precious in a world so dark.

“I think, said Roscuro, “that the meaning of life is light.”

That is, Pea was aware suddenly of how fragile her heart was, how much darkness was inside it, fighting, always, with the light. She did not like the rat. She would never like the rat, but she knew what she must do to save her own heart.

The world is dark and light is precious. Come closer, dear reader. You must trust me. I am telling you a story.

Basically, I loved The Tale of Despereaux. Despereaux is adorable, and when he fell in love with the princess I just melted. I feel like this book has a lot for everyone. Girls will love this royal story, filled with a castle and a princess and love. Boys will love the brave Despereaux and his journey to the dungeons to save the princess. Parents will love this because of all the hidden messages they can share with their children, as there are quite a few teaching moments. Some of these lessons are simply beautiful, and are a nice reminder for kids and adults alike.

5 Stars

Boys, Bears, & a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald (Mini Book Review)

Posted June 10, 2013 by Jana in Book Review, Young Adult Fiction / 5 Comments

Boys, Bears, & a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald (Mini Book Review)Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots by Abby McDonald
Published by Candlewick Press on April 13, 2010
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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3.5 Stars

Jenna may hail from the ’burbs of New Jersey, but Green Teen activism is her life. So when her mom suggests they spend the summer at Grandma’s Florida condo, Jenna pleads instead to visit her hippie godmother, Susie, up in rural Canada. Jenna is psyched at the chance to commune with this nature she’s heard about — and the cute, plaidwearing boys she’s certain must roam there. But after a few run-ins with local wildlife (from a larger-than-life moose to Susie’s sullen Goth stepdaughter to a hot but hostile boy named Reeve), Jenna gets the idea that her long-held ideals, like vegetarianism and conservation, don’t play so well with this population of real outdoorsmen. A dusty survival guide offers Jenna amusing tips on navigating the wilderness — but can she learn to navigate the turns of her heart?(

Ooooo! An outdoorsy contemporary, with a Jersey girl in the summery Canadian wilderness!? I was all for it. And honestly, the title was quite intriguing and made me laugh. I also thought the “Green Teen” spin was kind of a unique story element. All in all, I really enjoyed Boys, Bears, and a Serious Pair of Hiking Boots. It was cute, light, and full of nature.

Jenna is an activist for preserving the environment. I liked reading about a heroine that had such strong values at such a young age. She is driven, and has goals for her future. I identified with her because I also had my future planned out as a teenager. And like her, my goals changed or were added to. I also liked that she was clean cut and had a desire to stay healthy by eating properly and staying away from drugs. AND she chose to go live in the wilderness over spending a summer poolside in Florida! She’s just a refreshing character, and stands out from the bulk of YA contemporary heroines.

So, she heads off to Canada to stay with her godmother, Susie, and help her spruce up a quaint little B&B in the woods. I really like her godmother! She kind of reminds me of Meryl Streep’s character in Mama Mia! She’s laid back, doesn’t stress to much, lets thing roll off her, and is a lot of fun to talk to. I also like Susie’s husband. He’s a bit quiet and removed, but he has a good heart. Then there’s Fiona, Susie’s stepdaughter, who is pretty much a brat. Every book has to have opposition, and Fiona plays that role on her own. I liked watching her change as Jenna’s perkiness and conscience wore off on her. And THEN we have the three, cute wilderness boys. They spend their summer hanging out with Jenna and making a documentary of sorts about all the fun you can have in that area. Their goal is to put it on a website and attract tourists to the B&B, rather than the high-end spa up the mountain. They spend lots of time swimming, hiking, kayaking, rock climbing, etc. I loved reading about all the fun they have doing things I’m too chicken to do!

To sum things up, this book is really cute! I enjoyed seeing Jenna change into a more realistic, mature girl. I think everyone has a pivotal moment in their life when they really decide what they believe in. This summer did just that for Jenna. Plus, she made some memories, made some friends, strengthened her family bonds, and even found herself in the middle of some romance. Was the book memorable? Probably not. But I enjoyed my time reading it, and would recommend it as a fun contemporary romance.

3.5 Stars