Critical Overview

The Tale of Despereaux won the 2004 Newbery Medal, America’s highest honor for children’s literature, and received extremely positive reviews. Booklist, the School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Publisher’s Weekly each gave the novel a starred review. Ilene Cooper for Booklist called The Tale of Despereaux a “deceptively simple” novel that relays important messages while also telling a charming, “soul-stirring” story. In The New York Times, Jerry Griswold praised the author’s cleverness, humor, and above all, her compelling narrating voice. He called the novel an “impressive” work that chronicles the characters’ rise from darkness to light. Sondra Eklund for Sonderbooks called the novel a “magnificently done,” inventive fairy tale, a simple but beautifully told story that works especially well when read aloud.

In the School Library Journal, Miriam Lang Budin deemed The Tale of Despereaux engaging, inspiring, and “great fun.” Kirkus Reviews praised the story’s many “twists and turns” and old-fashioned sense of drama. Publisher’s Weekly went further, imitating the novel’s old-fashioned storytelling style to illustrate its charm. “Reader,” the reviewer wrote, “I will let you imagine, for now, how these witticisms of our omniscient narrator come into play; but I must tell you, you are in for a treat.”

In addition to The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo has written a number of other critically acclaimed children’s novels, including The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Magician’s Elephant, and her first novel, the Newbery-honor winning Because of Winn-Dixie. Both The Tale of Despereaux and Because of Winn-Dixie were made into successful films. In addition, all of DiCamillo’s books are popular choices in the grade-school classroom, as the novels relay important messages in the form of charming, entertaining stories that hold children's interest.