As I mentioned earlier, I decided to re-start my Newbery Project with The Tale of Despereaux: being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread. The movie is due out December 19 and I wanted to read the book before seeing the film (which looks very cute, by the way).
This is a story that I'm pretty sure I would have read to shreds as a child because first, and foremost, Despereaux is a good story. A story is all that matters to a child because little minds don't actively search out form, style, genre, etc. like a grown-up one might. So this grown-up mind enjoyed Despereaux's story as much as she enjoyed the writer's style. I really did appreciate the "fourth-wall" asides that DiCamillo uses throughout the book, much like a Bronte or a Dickens, where she speaks directly to the reader. It makes the story seem far older than it really is and it follows more along the lines of a traditional fairy tale or morality story. DiCamillo also uses the asides to illustrate concepts she introduces in the story; she introduces "perfidy" and "forgiveness" as well as the translation of "adieu" so not only is a child getting a good story in Despereaux he/she is also getting a vocabulary lesson (and there are many, many more advanced words in this novel than the other two that I read, but they don't seem out of place).
The other thing that makes this novel so appealing is Despereaux himself. He is far too small, too naive, too brave, and too loyal for anyone not to love him.
Vocabulary (and I'm basing this on words I probably would not have known or not known the alternate meanings to in 4th grade):
Merlot (Despereaux's siblings have odd names)
defiance (I might have known this one)
Chiaroscuro (I only learned this about 5 years ago, so I'm pretty sure I didn't know this one)
clout (the hitting kind, not the reputation kind)
(that's quite a few, isn't it?)