The Tale of Despereaux

I have mice in my house.

I suppose it’s inevitable. As beautiful as my house is, it is still right smack-dab in the middle of the woods. I am the only motel for many mice miles around. (Are mice miles a thing? Like, 5280 little mice steps? I feel like scientists should look into this.)

So, yes, I do have mice in my house. I also have a cat. She is old and fat and lazy, and I love her. Her name is Mrs. Hudson. She caught a mouse once, left it half-eaten in the middle of my floor, and when I came in managed to look as proud of herself as if she’d killed a deer to feed me.

I think she wanted me to eat it.

I did not.

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The only other mouse I saw was hiding in my shoe. At 4:30 in the morning. While I was getting ready for work. Sad to say, I did not find said mouse until the shoe was already on my foot.

A certain amount of screaming ensued.

Most of it was mine.

I did not end up feeling particularly dignified that day.

Needless to say, mice and I do not get along very well. Or, at least, mice in the house. Mice in books however, I have always enjoyed. Mostly because they do not hide in my shoes.

One of my favorite literary mice is Despereaux, from The Tale of Despereaux. Despereaux is an extra small mouse with ears that are too big for himself and eyes that were already open when he was born, as if he didn’t want to miss a moment of his new life. He is smart, inquisitive, and decidedly un-mouse-like. He doesn’t scurry or cringe, he doesn’t like to run away, and—perhaps oddest of all—Despereaux is a reader. The stories he reads teach him about chivalry and bravery, kindness and valor. They are stories of knights and ladies, princesses and kings, forgiveness and heroism. The stories he reads lead him to search out his own adventures, and before too long he dares to speak to a princess of his own—a princess of a broken kingdom.

 

His conversation with her is overheard, and as a result, Despereaux is banished by his fellow mice. (For as everyone knows, mice are forbidden to talk to humans.) He is thrown into the dungeons for the rats to find, and saved by the jailer when he agrees to tell the lonely man a story and bring a little light to his dark tasks.

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But more than one lonely jailer needs the light Despereaux has to offer. There are many bitter and darkened hearts in this broken kingdom, ranging from a small servant girl name Miggory Sow to the very king himself. Light, stories—and soup—are all needed to bring Despereaux and his princess to a happy end at last.

This lovely book is chock full of gorgeous imagery, beautiful prose, and characters that you will not easily forget. The next time you are searching for a book to let a little light into your world, I would suggest reaching for this one.

“Once upon a time,” he said out loud to the darkness. He said these words because they were the best, the most powerful words he knew and just the saying of them comforted him.

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