I picked up The Tale of Despereaux because of the movie that came out a few months ago. I didn't see the movie, and I actually heard that it wasn't very good, but I had the book at home anyway. And then I realized that it was on the list for the Unshelved Bookclub. I signed up for a challenge to read three of these books before June, so it works out well. Unshelved is a comic strip about working at a library, and it is right-on most of the time. Here is what the website says about the bookclub: "Every Sunday our characters talk about a book they've read in full-page full-color comic strips. " The comic strip about The Tale of Despereaux is not particularly amusing or insightful, but it does give a fairly decent summary of the plot.
Despereaux is a tiny mouse: the only one of his litter to survive, he was born with his eyes open. This would be enough for his family to find him strange, but his odd behavior continually sets him apart, eventually leading to his banishment. He refuses to learn how to scurry, and when he one day hears beautiful music, he follows the sound and finds the Princess Pea, who he promptly falls in love with. When she is kidnapped, he must face his fears to save her, the way a knight in a fairytale would.
I loved this story, and I definitely plan on having a copy around for myself. This would be a perfect book to read to child, one that they could grow into and read for themselves one day. It has some sadness - the fact that Despereaux is the only one of his litter who lives through their birth; the serving girl Miggery Sow (the name is bad enough), who has been beaten so badly throughout her life that she has gone practically deaf; the Queen who dies of fear of a rat. And even the protagonists are shown as having darkness in their hearts. Despereaux must learn to forgive his family for their part in his banishment, and the Princess must forgive the rat who kidnaps her. The whole story is done so well, however, I am in no way interested in seeing a movie version of it now. It's one of those books that is better read out loud than seen on screen.