Thursday, January 28, 2010

Book review: "The Tale of Despereaux," by Kate DiCamillo

The Tale of Despereaux (2001)
Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press

A friend has convinced me to try my hand this year for the first time at children's literature; but I don't actually know anything about children's literature, so am starting the process among other ways by first reading all the books that have won the Newbery Award in the last ten years, although I've been warned that there is sometimes a strong disconnect between such books and what the actual book-buying public really wants. This was the 2003 winner, a fairytale set in medieval France which like Pixar's Ratatouille concerns a mouse that develops a taste for the finer things in life, like art and beauty; and while I found it just fine for what it aims to be, there's a certain overly twee preciousness to this story that I myself don't care for in children's literature, sort of like combining the worst elements of Lemony Snicket, Victorian first-person narration, and that Simpsons episode where they make fun of Cirque de Soleil. Although I recommend it for people who are looking for that kind of thing, it's just not the kind of kid-lit I'm interested in writing, which is why I don't have much to say about it. The book is around 30,000 words altogether, and is best in my opinion for third, fourth, and some fifth-graders, a nice challenge for those getting more and more comfortable with smaller chapter books.

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