A mouse with a dream of happily-ever-after loving a Princess, a rat with a dream of revenge, and a dim-witted servant girl with a dream of being royalty each have their story, and their section of the book. The paths of their lives come close at various points and then converge as each plots to achieve his/her dream. Eleven Booktalks provide a varied introduction to The Tale of Despereaux.
ActivitiesPre-reading note for the teacher:
When Despereaux fell into the darkness of the dungeon, (page 74) he panics until he remembers the words of the threadmaster. Describe how Despereaux demonstrated honor, courtesy, devotion, and bravery by the end of the story.
Find a recipe for a soup with ingredients that include chicken, garlic, and watercress. (several online) What is watercress?
Scheherazade was another character who was allowed to live because of the telling of stories. Listen to part of the Scheherazade symphony composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
Note for the teacher: Extend the study of the music using the Scheherazade Interactive unit with lesson plan (pdf), designed for grades 2-4 but useable into the intermediate grades.
Discuss the author’s style of commenting directly to the reader. What effect did this style have on your enjoyment of the story?
Draw a circle diagram explaining the "vicious circle" of Miggery Sow’s life. Brainstorm characters from other books whose lives have a vicious circle.
Compare the pictures of Mig on pages 133 and 155. How does Mr. Ering show Mig has changed? How does he show that both pictures are of the same girl?
The Tale of Despereaux has been called a fairy tale. In what ways is it a fairy tale? In what ways is it not a fairy tale?
There are many beautiful things in the castle including tapestries. The Unicorn Tapestries are an example of how tapestries were made to tell a story, either a myth or event from daily life. Design a tapestry for your life.
We readers are told that Despereaux and the princess lived ever after as friends and together they had many adventures. Create your own tale of one of these adventures.
Word StudyCan you explain these phrases from the book? Which ones can you figure out from the context of the page?
About the Author
About Kate at her website
Candlewick Press Bios Kate DeCamillo
Book Browse Author Biography Kate DiCamillo
Kate DiCamill interview by Jeffrey Brown.
BookPage interview by Heidi Henneman
Chat Room Discussion with Kate DiCamillo
Borders interview by Trudy Wyss. the audience is the adult consumer, but contains some unique content
Book Browse Biography of illustrator Timothy Ering
O’Brien, R. (1971). Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH. Atheneum
Conly, J. (1986). Racso and the rats of NIMH. HarperCollins, sequel to Mrs. Frisby and the rats of NIMH written by O’Brien’s daughter
Conly, J. (1990). R.T., Margaret and the rats of NIMH. HarperCollins
More for the teacher
Find more insights about the author to interpret for students by browsing Kate’s personal website.
And more background in the Teaching Books mini movies starring Kate DiCamillo
Use the book as a basis for further discussion on one or more of these topics: dichotomies; literary conventions; happily ever after; punishment; comfort food; conformity, revenge & forgiveness; grief & hope; empathy. stereotyping & prejudice; loyalty.
The Tale of Despereaux. Accelerated Reader: Quiz #70401 EN; Book Level 4.7; Points= 5.0
Book Adventure (Sylvan): Quiz Level 5
Reading Counts: Reading Level 4.8; Points= 9.0
Lexile Level 670
Guided Reading Level U
Flesch/Kincaid Reading Level: 4.7
word count= 31975