It has absolutely not been the disappointment to spend time with you again. We first met in the fall of 2003 and it was love at first read. My class that year was over the top when you won the Newbery. (Remember this photo of you with your medal? We put it in a card of congratulations to your creator, Kate DiCamillo.)
For the next couple of years kids had read you already and didn’t want to hear you again as a read aloud. But this year, happily, was different. Every kid in my class, even those who knew you already, enjoyed every moment we had together these last few weeks. At each session, you were carefully held by a student so you could read along over my shoulder. (You did lose your tail, red thread and medal along the way, but I did at least restore your tail when the reading was over — another way time moves in strange ways — back to the beginning of your story all ready for the next class to enjoy you.)
The kids talked about you at different points all day long. One commented that she normally didn’t like fantasy, but this was different. Several spoke of being scared of mice with the exception of you (as how could they be scared of you? I mean, really!). A couple of days ago as your story wound to a close, the mention of soup made them think of the soup in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (from the chapter “Pig and Pepper” which I’d just read) and even the poor boy who wasted away because he didn’t eat his soup in Struwwelpeter (which I also happened to have read earlier that day).
Since last reading you aloud, I’d written and given a talk on fairy tales for the 2005 Children’s Literature New England summer institute and considered you in tandem with Philip Pullman’s I Was a Rat! and George MacDonald’s The Light Princess. While I knew your creator had been very influenced by Charles Dickens, it was with this reading that I really noticed it. I listened to A Tale of Two Cities last year and I was wowed by the connections I saw this time. Your self-sacrificing tendency, various sentences (which I can’t find now, but remember noticing as I read aloud), and the light/dark stuff. Very, very cool indeed.
Thanks for a wonderful time. Can’t wait to read you aloud again!
7 responses to “Reading Aloud Despereaux”
Writing a letter to a book character – great way to do a review! Some of our fourth graders wrote a lot of letters to Despereau when they were reading him too. It’s a wonderful book. Your connections (text-to-text, text-to-self, text-to-world) really bring out the depth and complexity.
Despereaux – what a sweet sweet book! You make me want to reread it now too.
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