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The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread

by

The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread Cover

 

 

Reading Group Guide

QUESTIONS TO DISCUSS

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?

 

COMING TO TERMS

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

adieu
chiaroscuro
empathy
furlough
perfidy
portentous
remorse

 

WHAT?S THE POINT...OF VIEW?

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?

 

A MATTER OF TIME

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 HAPPENS NEXT?

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 9 comments:

2me2, October 16, 2008 (view all comments by 2me2)
My son read this book last year for a book report (4th grade). He enjoyed the book so much, we purchased it for him for Christmas. He pulled the book back out again yesterday to re-read the story. He says that it is the best book he's ever read. It was a very good read and it is broken down into four separate "books" which made it that much easier to write the book report. I would recommend (and have) this book to anyone with children. It definitely stimulated the reading!
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(9 of 14 readers found this comment helpful)
johnsongini, September 4, 2008 (view all comments by johnsongini)
I purchased this book for a child, but what struck me as I read it was the brilliant symbolism that could connect to our social studies curriculum in middle school. For me, it was a flash of realization like the light the rat saw as Gregory the jailor lit the match with the nail of his thumb.

Even though, for Roscuro the rat, the flame was extinguished in a second, the light continued to dance inside him. The idea was born that "light was the only thing that gave life meaning." Once he had seen it, nothing was ever the same again. No longer was he content to be confined to the darkness of the dungeon. He was willing to brave anything to find the light. There are other threads and other lessons as well in this story. All one has to do is look for them.

As a curriculum specialist, I am recommending that teachers in our district use this wonderful book with all of its symbolism about light and darkness and people being kept "in their place" to connect literature to the issues of slavery and human rights in social studies. The glimmer of light, the hope of freedom -- and all is changed forever!

I highly recommend the book for middle school language arts and social studies as a collaborative piece.
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(14 of 23 readers found this comment helpful)
Lisa Combs, July 16, 2008 (view all comments by Lisa Combs)
Rarely authors make the reader part of the story but in Despereaux it is a quintessential element. Reading this tale is a journey into universal themes of forgiveness, love, the delight of fairy tales and the symbolism is beautiful. DiCamillo exposes young readers to literary elements and wonderful words. This is a treasure for readers of all ages to read, read aloud, share and revisit again. Make memories and read The Tale of Despereaux with someone special.
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(4 of 17 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780763625290
Author:
DiCamillo, Kate
Publisher:
Candlewick Press (MA)
Illustrator:
Ering, Timothy Basil
Author:
Ering, Timothy Basil
Subject:
Fairy Tales & Folklore - Single Title
Subject:
Mice
Subject:
Fairy tales
Subject:
Fairy Tales & Folklore - General
Subject:
Action & Adventure
Subject:
Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic
Subject:
General-General
Subject:
Children s-General
Subject:
Family - General
Copyright:
Edition Number:
Reprint ed.
Series:
Tale of Despereaux
Publication Date:
April 11, 2006
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
from 2 up to 7
Language:
English
Illustrations:
1-COLOR
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
36 x 13.5 x 5 in 12.7 lb
Age Level:
08-12

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The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.99 In Stock
Product details 272 pages Candlewick Press (MA) - English 9780763625290 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Forgiveness, light, love, and soup. These essential ingredients combine into a tale that is as soul-stirring as it is delicious."
"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 , "[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 , The Tiger Rising, 4 copies,
"Synopsis" by , "Forgiveness, light, love, and soup. These essential ingredients combine into a tale that is as soul-stirring as it is delicious." — BOOKLIST (starred review)

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.

From the master storyteller who brought us BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE comes another classic, a fairy tale full of quirky, unforgettable characters, with twenty-four stunning black-and-white illustrations by Timothy Basil Ering. This paperback edition pays tribute to the book's classicdesign, featuring a rough front and elegant gold stamping.

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