Small and sickly mouse Despereaux Tilling lives in a castle and is in love with a beautiful human, Princess Pea. When an evil rat named Roscuro kidnaps the princess, Despereaux sets out on a quest to rescue his beloved.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In Jocelyn Rish’s short story “Seeking a Hidden Hive,” a small boy and his grandfather are led to a beehive by a bird to collect honeycomb.
Read this short story after chapter ten to have students discuss character traits. In this chapter, Despereaux tells the truth about his interaction with Princess Pea to the Mouse Council. Have students discuss the ways Despereaux is different from the other mice. Then, have students discuss what Guyo learns about himself in “Seeking a Hidden Hive.” Have students analyze Despereaux’s and Guyo’s character traits. Ask, “How do the other mice view Despereaux, and how does he view himself? How does Guyo view himself at the beginning and end of ‘Seeking a Hidden Hive?’ What do the characters’ strengths tell us about them?” Students should give evidence to show that being different can be a good thing and the traits we think are weaknesses can be our strengths.
In Deb Westgate-Silva’s short story “Getting Even,” Rosa tries to get even with a friend who hurt her.
Read this short story after chapter twenty-three to have students analyze characters’ perspectives. At the end of this chapter, Roscuro is determined to make the princess suffer for how she made him feel when he landed in the queen’s soup. Have students discuss the consequences of Roscuro’s actions so far. Then, have students discuss how Rosa’s perspective changes throughout “Getting Even.” Have students compare the characters’ perspectives in both texts. Ask, “Why is Roscuro determined to make the princess suffer? How is his perspective similar to Rosa’s perspective at the beginning of ‘Getting Even?’ Based on the lesson Rosa learns about revenge and forgiveness, what do you predict will happen to Roscuro when he enacts his plan for revenge?” Students should give evidence from both texts to support their predictions.
In the poem “Dreams,” Langston Hughes uses metaphors to describe what life would be like without dreams.
Read this poem after chapter twenty-eight to have students discuss the theme of hope. In this chapter, Mig is taken to the castle to be a servant. Have students discuss Mig’s perspective in this chapter, particularly her dream of becoming a princess. Then, have students discuss the speaker’s message in “Dreams.” Have students compare the author’s commentary about Mig’s hopes and the speaker’s message in the poem. Ask, “What does the author mean by, ‘Do you think that it is a terrible thing to hope when there is really no reason to hope at all?’ How is the author’s perspective in this chapter similar to and different from the speaker’s perspective in ‘Dreams?’” Students may have varying ideas about the importance of hope and should give evidence from the texts to support their thinking.
In “The Sacrifice of the Rainbow Bird,” a bird brings fire to humans to help them survive the winter.
Read this Native American folktale after chapter fifty to have students analyze character motivation. In this chapter, Despereaux has traveled far into the dungeon to rescue Princess Pea. Have students discuss the obstacles Despereaux has faced getting to the dungeon. Then, have students discuss the obstacles Rainbow Bird faces trying to save his people from the winter in “The Sacrifice of the Rainbow Bird.” Have students compare Despereaux’s and Rainbow Bird’s motivation. Ask, “Why is Despereaux determined to save Princess Pea? How is Despereaux’s love for the princess similar to Rainbow Bird’s love for his people? What do the characters’ actions tell you about them?” Students may give examples that demonstrate the characters’ chivalry, courage, and the deep love they have for others.
In this classic fable by Aesop, the ancient Greek storyteller, a tiny mouse proves to a powerful lion that she is greater than she seems.
Read this fable after finishing The Tale of Despereaux to have students analyze the themes of the novel. Have students discuss the ways Despereaux shows he is strong despite his small size. Then, have students discuss what the Mouse teaches the Lion in “The Lion and the Mouse.” Have students compare the themes of the two texts. Ask, “How does Despereaux prove himself by the end of the story? How does Despereaux’s experience exemplify the themes of ‘The Lion and the Mouse?’” Students should explain the importance of kindness and how physical size does not determine inner strength and true potential.