The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering
Despereaux Tilling was never expected to survive, but this odd little mouse just kept getting odder and odder from reading fairy tales to the ultimate offense of speaking to a human. This tiny protagonist doesn’t realize he plays the role of hero until it is the only way to save his beloved Princess Pea from Chiaroscuro, the rat. DiCamillo acknowledges that there are some bad guys who will always be bad, for example Botticelli Remorso, but she also reminds us that you cannot judge a book by its cover, and just because a rat is a rat does not mean it cannot love the light and hate the darkness. The book is a graceful fairy tale with a touch of reality that makes a perfect finish at not quite happily ever after, but just enough.
Newbery Winner 2004