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The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo



Book Summary Novel Activities Vocabulary Words Writing Activities Discussion Topics Online Test




Book Summary


The Tale of Despereaux is a fun, heartwarming story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread. The tale begins within the walls of a castle where Despereaux, the unlikely hero of the story, is born. Very small, with over-sized ears, and born with his eyes open, Despereaux is considered odd by his mouse peers. One day the sound of music leads him to the Princess Pea, with whom he falls deeply in love. When word gets out that Despereaux has broken the most important mouse rule—never reveal yourself to humans—he is banished to the dungeon by his own family to be tortured and killed by the rats! In another strand of this story, we meet Miggery Sow, a peasant girl who is sold into service by her own father. Mig's desire to be a princess, a rat's desire for revenge, and Despereaux's quest to save the kidnapped Princess Pea bring an interesting cast of characters together in a delightful tale about good and evil. The author, Kate DiCamillo, has created some truly memorable characters in this witty, suspenseful narrative, in which she addresses the reader directly. Woven throughout the story is the power of love, hope, and forgiveness, leaving the reader to decide, "Is there such a thing as happily ever after?"


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Novel Activities


1. The Tale of Despereaux skips around in time quite a bit. To understand when each big event happens, keep a record of the events on a timeline as you read the story.

2. The two main characters of The Tale of Despereaux are very different, yet they have many similarities as well. Compare and contrast Despereaux and Roscuro.

3. In the end of the story, we learn that Miggery is reunited with her father. Despite the horrible way that he abandoned Miggery, he is forgiven and treats her like a princess for the rest of his days. Imagine the conversation Miggery and her father had when they were first reunited. Write the conversation.

4. Make watercress soup as a class.


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Vocabulary Words


shard fate dismay perfidy
egregious prophecy consigned ornate
revelation portentous diabolical quest


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Writing Activities


Sensory/Descriptive: The author, Kate DiCamillo, has a wonderful way with words. She often describes feelings, events, and characters with figurative language (writing that says a lot with a few words). Write descriptions for Despereaux, the cave, and love using figurative language.


Imaginative/Narrative: Forgiveness is a recurring theme throughout The Tale of Despereaux. According to the author, forgiveness is like love: a powerful, wonderful, ridiculous thing. To show this idea, write a personal narrative about a time you forgave someone or you were forgiven. Be sure to include your thoughts about how forgiveness in your life was a powerful, wonderful, or ridiculous thing


Analytical/Persuasive: In his grief over the queen's death, the king made soup illegal, along with all the bowls, kettles, and spoons in the kingdom! As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that many people want, even need, soup. Imagine you live in this kingdom. Write a persuasive essay to the king to make soup legal again. Be sure to cite examples/details from the story to help support your reasons.


Practical/Informative: In the beginning of their lives, Despereaux and Roscuro have much to learn about how they are supposed to act. Despereaux learns how mice are supposed to behave, while Roscuro learns how to torture a prisoner! Write a how-to poem for one of these characters (How to be a Mouse or How to Torture a Prisoner). Each line of your poem should start with a strong verb to describe what the character should do.


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Discussion/Journal Topics


Chapter Five: “Love is ridiculous. But love is also wonderful. And powerful.”

Chapter Twelve: “Farewell is a word that, in any language, is full of sorrow.”

Chapter Forty-four: “And he was surprised how much her laughter hurt.”


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Online Test


Your students can take an online test with immediate results at:

The Tale of Despereaux Online Test


The Professional Development Institute has a complete literature unit for this novel. For more information, click the link below.

The Tale of Despereaux Literature Unit (Check out the sample pages!)


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