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The Tale of Despereaux is a 2003 fantasy book written by Kate DiCamillo. The main plot follows the adventures of a mouse named Despereaux Tilling, as he sets out on his quest to rescue a beautiful human princess from the rats. The novel is divided into four "books" and ends with a coda. Each "book" tells the story from a different character's or group of characters' perspective, and finally all of them combined. The book won the 2004 Newbery Medal award.

The Tale of Despereaux
The Tale of Despereaux.jpg
First edition
AuthorKate DiCamillo
IllustratorTimothy B. Ering
Cover artistDavis Right
CountryUnited States
GenreFantasy novel
PublisherCandlewick Press
Publication date
August 25, 2003
Media typePrint (Paperback)
LC ClassPZ8.D525 Tal 2003

In 2007 the U.S. National Education Association named the book as one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children", based on an online poll. Teachers also made it a summer reading project.[1] In 2012 it was ranked number 51 among all-time children's novels in a survey published by School Library Journal – the second of three books by DiCamillo in the Top 100.[2]

In 2008, the book was adapted as an animated film of the same name. On December 2, 2008, a video game for the Nintendo DS, PlayStation 2 and PC, called The Tale of Despereaux, was released.[3] In 2018, the book was adapted into a musical by the PigPen Theatre Co.[4]



A noble mouse named Despereaux saves a princess named Princess Pea.

Book I: A Mouse Is BornEdit

Book one tells a story about a small, sickly mouse named Despereaux who was born in a castle with his eyes open. Despereaux, unlike other mice, spends lots of time reading and particularly enjoys a book about how a knight saves a princess and they live happily ever after. One day while reading, he hears music that sounds like honey. He follows the sound and leads him to Princess Pea and King Philip. He sits at the king's feet to hear the music and falls in love with the princess and speaks to her, but the king leads the mouse away because mice are related to the outlawed rats. Furlough, Despereaux’s brother, sees this and tells his father, Lester Tilling. Lester calls the mouse council; Furlough goes to collect Despereaux. The mouse council orders Despereaux to be sent to the dungeon because talking to a human is forbidden. When he goes in the dungeon, he meets Gregory, the jailer, who saves him because Despereaux tells him a story which he says that its light and light is precious.

Book II: ChiaroscuroEdit

Book II talks about a rat named Roscuro who, unlike the other rats, loved the light and was less vicious and cunning than the other rats. Finally, he decided to go into the light (hence the name). He climbed onto a chandelier, above a banquet. However, he fell into the queen's soup, and the queen, whose habit was to state the obvious, said, "There's a rat in my soup," before dying. The princess, now hostile to Roscuro, ordered him to leave. Roscuro, angry, desired revenge against the princess. The king, upset, banned the use of spoons, soup, and bowls.

Book III: The Tale of Miggery SowEdit

Many years before Despereaux and Roscuro were born, a six-year-old girl named Miggery "Mig" Sow witnesses the death of her ill mother. Afterwards, Mig is sold to work by her father for some cigarettes, a hen, and a red tablecloth to a man Mig calls "Uncle". Uncle often clouts Mig's ears, leaving her partially deaf. Mig decides, upon seeing the princess pass by on a horse, that she wants to be a princess. Mig is then sent to work in the castle by the King's soldiers, who tell "Uncle" that no human being is allowed to own another. In the castle she gains a lot of weight. Only her head stayed small. Mig's main job is to go down to the dungeons to deliver Gregory the jailer his meal and, while there, she meets Roscuro and confesses to him that her greatest wish is to become a princess. Roscuro convinces Mig that if she helps him kidnap Princess Pea, he'll make her a servant girl so Miggery Sow can become a princess.


  1. ^ National Education Association (2007). "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  2. ^ Bird, Elizabeth (July 7, 2012). "Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results". A Fuse #8 Production. Blog. School Library Journal ( Retrieved August 22, 2012. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  3. ^ "The Tale of Despereaux". Metacritic. Retrieved 2019-06-29.
  4. ^ "The Tale of Despereaux". PigPen Theatre Co.

External linksEdit

Preceded by
Crispin: The Cross of Lead
Newbery Medal recipient
Succeeded by