I’ve read The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread, by Kate DiCamillo, about four times so far (and I usually find a reason to read it again every year). It’s probably one of my favorite books of all time, and what I love most about it is that it is a perfect read-aloud book for my children.

DiCamillo uses a narrating technique that I’ve employed in the Fairendale stories—which is authorial intrusion (that’s the technical term). What it means is that the narrator talks to the reader, like in this example:

“Reader, you must know that an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform.”

The Tale of Despereaux is written like an old fairy tale, takes place in a drafty castle, and has to do with a princess and a mouse. What’s not to love?

Here are three things that stand out most about this book, every time I read it:

1. The voice of the narrator. I absolutely love how the narrator addresses the audience and interjects her own opinions throughout the book.

2. The metaphor of light and dark and how every heart has light and dark in it. The redemption contained within this book always chokes me up.

3. The poetic movement. If you’ve read much of Kate DiCamillo, you’ll know that one thing about her writing is that she writes with poetry but in a way that kids can understand. I adore her style and the challenges she gives readers by using large, uncommon words.

I hope you’ll check out The Tale of Despereaux and enjoy its beauty and wonder as a family read-aloud.