"The world is dark, and light is precious." So begins the tale of Despereaux, an overly small mouse with overly large ears who has the unfortunate habit of acting too much like a human. He is especially partial to reading and his own life's tale is the type of illuminating story that warms the heart and stays with the reader long after the last page is turned.
His mother names him Despereaux, French for disappointment, because his small and sickly stature are just that, but Despereaux's spirit makes up for what he lacks in size. When he sees the Princess Pea, he cannot stop himself from breaking the number one mouse rule - never speak to humans. He speaks to the princess because, like all great heroes, Despereaux has fallen in love. Due to his transgression the Mouse Council, including his brother and father, decide to throw Despereaux to the rats in the dungeons below the castle.
In a seemingly abrupt transition, the reader is presented with the story of an unfortunate little girl named Miggory Sow whose lot in life lands her at the castle. Eventually her life becomes entangled with Despereaux's. Mig may be dull-witted, but she is determined to wear the crown of a princess someday. Mig's plans go awry when she and the princess are captured by the loathsome rats. Despereaux must gather all of his courage to escape the dungeon and save his beloved princess.
Through masterful shading, Ering's detailed pencil illustrations reflect the dueling symbols of darkness and hope, integral to Despereaux's tale and the poetic language make this story a fantastic read-aloud. Both children and adults will enjoy this story of love, valor, forgiveness, and soup.
Recommended by Caroline Barlow