Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tale of Despereaux


I must confess, I haven't read the original book, or seen the animated movie. I just finished reading this graphic novel adaptation and I came into it pretty darn skeptical... a comic book, based on the movie... based on the original novel? How good could it be? I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised. It's light-hearted and moves swiftly.  Obviously, it's a completely different animal than the original work, but taken completely on it's own merits it's pretty good.

The book opens with Roscuro the Rat, sailing in for the Kingdom of Dor's Royal Soup Day, which is apparently an even bigger celebration than Christmas. Chef Andre's top-secret to his sumptious soups is his helper, a magical being made of vegetables. Meantime, among the mice, an unusually brave and intrepid Despereaux is born. His teachers soon despair of teaching him how to cower and scurry as ordinary mice do, which is handled with a fair bit of humor. "Despereaux, there are so many wonderful things in life to be afraid of if you just learn how scary they are."

After the Queen accidentally drowns in a bowl of soup (it's handled in such a way that it's not nearly as gruesome as it sounds) the King outlaws soup and a gloom descends over the country. When Despereaux is exiled from his community for his continually un-mousy behavior (reading books, befriending princesses and the like) he and Roscuro team up and eventually bring soup (and happiness) back to the Kingdom of Dor.

The bold dark outlines in the artwork lend a hand-drawn feel to this digitally created piece. The style of the full-color drawings seems inspired by the film; just a bit more cartoonish and with a slightly muted palette.

I imagine I'll recommend this short 126 page graphic novel as a gateway drug to kids who can't seem to tear themselves away from Pokemon and other things of that ilk.

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