You’re a mouse, not a man.

Despereaux’s siblings attempt to educate him on how to act like a proper mouse, but he keeps getting distracted by the beauties within the castle, like a stained-glass window or a book that he’s supposed to be nibbling.

Despereaux looked down at the book, and something remarkable happened. The marks on the pages, the “squiggles” as Merlot called them, arranged themselves into shapes. The shapes arranged themselves into words, and the words spelled out a delicious and wonderful phrase: Once upon a time.

It didn’t occur to me until this re-reading that Despereaux never actually learned to read – he had no one to teach him. He just magically understands the writing. But this is a fairy tale after all, so a little bit of magic never hurts.

“Eat,” said Merlot.

“I couldn’t possibly,” said Despereaux, backing away from the book.


“Um,” said Despereaux. “It would ruin the story.”

“The story? What story?” Merlot stared at him. A piece of paper trembled at the end of one of her indignant whiskers. “It’s just like Pa said when you were born. Something is not right with you.” She turned and scurried from the library to tell her parents about this latest disappointment.

I’m reminded a bit of Matilda (easily my favorite Roald Dahl book) and how she escaped her small-minded family through books. Maybe the magic is intentional….

He shivered. He sneezed. He blew his nose into his handkerchief.

“Once upon a time,” he said aloud, relishing the sound. And then, tracing each word with his paw, he read the story of a beautiful princess and the brave knight who serves and honors her.

Despereaux did not know it, but he would need, very soon, to be brave himself.

Have I mentioned that beneath the castle there was a dungeon? In the dungeon, there were rats. Large rats. Mean rats.

Despereaux was destined to meet those rats.

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

And thus we begin to open up the wider. Also, I totally forgot that I cribbed quite a bit of DiCamillo’s style.

Until next time…

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