The Tale of Despereaux: being the story of a mouse, a princess, some soup, and a spool of thread by Kate DiCamillo, 4/5
This charming story begs to be read aloud near a cozy fireplace and I think even children too young to read would love hearing it. I appreciate that, in the style of all classic fairy tales, it does not shy away from portraying darkness to balance out the light. By acknowledging the violence and tragedy of existence in a matter-of-fact and age-appropriate way, the author puts a backbone in what might otherwise have been a silly, sappy, story for kids.
Why I read it: a student’s mom, Paige, recommended it in conversation.
This enjoyable collection of horse-themed legends from a variety of cultures is most notable for its fantastic pen and ink illustrations by Henry C. Pitz.
Why I read it: the title and spine detail caught my eye in a bookstore.
I found these rambling tales to be deeply boring and written in an off-putting, affected style. The first story, “The Golden Flower Pot,” (vaunted by the editor as Hoffmann’s best work) absolutely reeks of opium, full as it is of confusing dream sequences, hallucinations, inconsistent use of supernatural elements, and such oddities as a salamander exiled from “Fairyland Atlantis” to earth, in the form of an old man with daughters disguised as talking snakes. All that, but somehow, still boring and pointless.
Each successive story disenchanted me anew and it was toilsome work to get through the entire book. The only story I didn’t actively loathe was “Tobias Martin, Master Cooper, and His Men,” which is a sweet little tale whose lack of any real payoff or point is forgivable, given that it was inspired simply by a painting.
[Why I read it: the author’s name caught my eye as I browsed through books in the thrift store because, as a child, I had played a piano transcription of part of an opera called The Tales of Hoffmann, and I recognised his name from the song description.]