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The Tale of Despereaux


The Tale of Despereaux Cover



Reading Group Guide


1. How is Despereaux different from the other mice?

2. What happens when Despereaux?s sister Merlot tries to teach him to nibble paper? How does this affect the rest of the story?

3. Why does the King tell the Princess not to speak with Despereaux? When Despereaux leaves the Princess, he says to her, "I honor you." Why?

4. Why does the Mouse Council call Despereaux before them? What is their decision?

5. Who is Gregory, and how does he help Despereaux?

6. Who is Miggery Sow? How does she come to be at the castle?

7. Who are Boticelli and Roscuro? Why does Botticelli tell Roscuro to take the red cloth from Miggery Sow?s father? What does Roscuro believe the cloth will do?

8. What does the Queen love more than anything in the world? Why is it banned from the kingdom?

9. What is Roscuro?s plan for the Princess? What does he think he will gain from this plan?

10. What do Miggery Sow and the Princess Pea have in common?

11. Who is the threadmaster, and what is his job? How does he end up helping Despereaux?

12. When Despereaux comes upon Cook in the kitchen, what is she doing? Why is Cook afraid?

13. When Despereaux goes down into the dungeon to save the Princess, what four things do the rats smell? Why?

14. Which two characters lose their tails in the story, and how?

15. Does Despereaux succeed in his quest to save the Princess? What is the outcome of his quest?

16. What does the author hope the reader will find in the story?



Learn what the following words mean and how to pronounce them:




Author Kate DiCamillo tells The Tale of Despereaux through the voice of an omniscient narrator — one outside the story who knows everything that happens to all the characters, including what they?re thinking and feeling. What?s more, the narrator sometimes speaks directly to the reader and helps guide him or her through the story. This type of narrative device was sometimes used by Charles Dickens and other writers of his day.

In some cases, the narrator?s voice may make you smile. In Chapter 30, for example, she has this to say about Miggery Sow: "Reader, as the teller of this tale, it is my duty from time to time to utter some hard and rather disagreeable truths. In the spirit of honesty, then, I must inform you that Mig was the tiniest bit lazy. And, too, she was not the sharpest knife in the drawer." What was your reaction when you read this?

In other instances, the narrator speaks to the reader about some powerful themes. Focusing on chapters 5, 28, 38, and 40, see if you can find examples where the narrator speaks to the reader about love, hope, empathy, and forgiveness. What does the narrator say about these themes? Does the voice of the narrator help you understand things about the story that you might otherwise have missed?

Did you enjoy having the narrator speak directly to you as you were reading?



The Tale of Despereaux follows several characters. These characters don?t know one another at the start of the story, but by the end they have come into each other?s lives. In the process, their destiny changes.

Draw a timeline for each of these characters: Despereaux, Roscuro, Miggery Sow, and Princess Pea. Use a different color for each. Include on each character?s timeline the key events you know about that character?s life. At what point do their timelines start to interconnect?

Imagine what a timeline might look like for each of these characters if they had never come to meet the other three.



What do you think happens next in the story? Does Despereaux have other adventures? Does anything change in the dungeon? What is life like for Miggery Sow? Come up with more questions about what happens after The Tale of Despereaux. Write a story to answer your questions.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 7 comments:

ZoriBeth, January 19, 2010 (view all comments by ZoriBeth)
One of my two favorite books of all time, The Tale of Despereaux is a work of art disguised as a children's book. Simple, funny, elegant, and heart-wrenching, it is the perfect blend of darkness and light which we reflects that absurd miracle we call life. (Yet another case of "Don't judge a book by its movie.")
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Jonathan, January 10, 2010 (view all comments by Jonathan)
I've read The Tale of Despereaux out loud twice now, once to my wife and then three years later to my five-year-old, and both times I was amazed by the depth of the story and the beauty of the writing even while describing very ugly things. Yes, it's a children's book about talking mice, and yet sometimes it felt more real than a lot of adult fiction that I've read in the past decade. I will certainly be reading it again to my daughters when they're older, and I'm sure that each time they (and I) will discover something new.
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(3 of 6 readers found this comment helpful)
ethanelephant, December 17, 2008 (view all comments by ethanelephant)
I'm reading this book at school. And I already wanted to read it so bad. I'm so glad my teacher picked this one out! We're almost done with it, and I wanted to buy it, it's so good. Whenever we stop reading a chapter I am so tense. I wish we could just read the whole book in like a week. I hate having to stop reading each day!
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(6 of 17 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

Dicamillo, Kate
Candlewick Press (MA)
Ering, Timothy Basil
Ering, Timothy Basil
DiCamillo, Kate
Cambridge, Mass.
Animals - Mice Hamsters Guinea Pigs etc.
Children's 9-12 - Fiction - Fantasy
Fairy Tales & Folklore - Single Title
Fairy tales
Juvenile materials
Action & Adventure
Children s-General
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Tale of Despereaux
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
August 2003
Grade Level:
from 2 up to 7
24 x 21.38 x 6.5 in 1 lb
Age Level:

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Related Subjects

Children's » Awards » Newbery Award Winners
Children's » General
Children's » Middle Readers » General
Children's » Middle Readers » Newbery Award Winners
Young Adult » Fiction » Newbery Award Winners

The Tale of Despereaux Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.50 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Candlewick Press (MA) - English 9780763617226 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Reader, I will let you imagine, for now, how these witticisms of our omniscient narrator come into play; but I must tell you, you are in for a treat."
"Review" by , "Forgiveness, light, love, and soup. These essential ingredients combine into a tale that is as soul stirring as it is delicious....Ering's soft pencil illustrations reflect the story's charm."
"Review" by , "[E]ntirely pleasing....[A] tale with twists and turns, full of forbidden soup and ladles, rats lusting for mouse blood...and all the ingredients of an old-fashioned drama."
"Review" by , "This expanded fairy tale is entertaining, heartening, and, above all, great fun."
"Synopsis" by , From the author of Because of Winn-Dixie comes a fairy tale full of quirky, unforgettable characters, narrated with DeCamillo's trademark humor and heartbreaking poignancy. Illustrations.
"Synopsis" by ,


Kate DiCamillo introduces a hero for all time!

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 others lives. And what happens then? As Kate DiCamillo would say: Reader, it is your destiny to find out.

From the master storyteller who brought us BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE comes another classic, a fairy tale full of quirky, unforgettable characters, featuring twenty-four stunning black-and-white illustrations by Timothy Basil Ering, in an elegant design that pays tribute to the best in classic childrens books and bookmaking traditions.

The beloved author of BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE enlightens us with a tale of adventure, despair, love, and soup.

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