The Tale of Despereaux - Kate DiCamillo

This charming tale is split into four distinct parts. The first tells Despereaux's perspective from his birth as the only surviving little mate of his mouse parents. He is born with over large ears, a tiny body and very unusually his eyes open. He isn't like the other mice. He isn't interested in crumbs or eating books, more in reading them and listening to music. He breaks many mouse taboos and the final straw is when he is seen at the feet of the human King and his daughter Princess Pea. He is exiled to the dungeon to be eaten by the evil rats, but things are not so simple.

The second book introduces the rat Chiaroscuro (Roscuro to his friends) who lives in the castle dungeon. Like the other rats he has never seen light and world above, but unlike the others he becomes mesmerised by it and is so enchanted by the light that he explores the upper world. He hangs from a chandelier and watches the Princess Pea in her twinkling clothes and crown below, when suddenly he falls into the Queen's soup with terrible consequences. The King outlaws both rats and soup in the aftermath and Roscuro returns to the dungeon plotting revenge on the Princess Pea.

Enter the final main character, Miggery (Mig) Sow. The poor girl was sold by her father after her mother died aged 6 for a red tablecloth, a hen and a packet of cigarettes. Her new owner "Uncle" regularly beats her around the ears causing her to become partially deaf. On her seventh birthday she sees Princess Pea and her family riding and dreams of one day becoming a Princess herself. When she later moves to the castler, Roscuro is keen to manipulate her dreams to exact his revenge. Can Despereaux the tiny mouse resuce the Princess and save the day?

I loved this children's book. Dark and bitter sweet in places, the ending was just right without being too over the top. The illustrations were beautiful and I loved the way the whole book was presented with torn page edges. Despereaux is a great character enchanted with fairy tales and this blends in elements of many in it's telling. Definitely one I will read again and if we get around to having our own chidlren it will be high on my list of books to read to them.