I saw The Tale of Despereaux the other day, and it was a real crowd-pleaser for the young ones in the audience. The Tale of Despereaux is adapted from Kate di Camillo's beautiful children's book. Kate is also the author of Because of Winn-Dixie, which is, if possible, even more gorgeously-written than Despereaux.
This beautiful, clear and gentle story not only contains the totally adorable Despereaux (pictured above, as a baby who just won't cower like a good mouse should), it also features wonderful, atypical lessons and food for thought for its readers and viewers, young and old. I'm not sure the "reviews" for Despereaux were all that great, but as I've commented before, I experienced that phenomenon even as a young child, when films or TV shows that I really enjoyed fell upon deaf and blind adult ears and eyes. Despereaux's anti-hero-hero friend the rat, who is "Chiaroscuro" in the book and "Roscuro" (as in a 4 year-old can pronounce that, but not the other, I guess) in the film, and the rather hideously-drawn serving girl Miggery Sow are less-than-perfect and uncute characters who are in the end, redeemed in a satisfying, and not totally-unrealistic fashion. The message or lesson, that the hurts that we experience in life can also make us hurt others in order to make ourselves feel better - or perhaps, that such hurts blind us to the goodness and happiness that lies within ourselves - is such a profoundly true one that one wishes it could be seen in more stories written for younger readers. Excepting Bruce Coville, of course - but that's the Coville Aisle in the library/store rather than the general, overall children's aisle.
Since the great majority of us are much more like Miggery and Chiaroscuro than we are like Despereaux, though I think nearly everyone would be Despereaux in his or her heart - here is to a 2009 that will surely bring some tough times for just about everyone, but also, I believe, greater joy than in the easy, carefree times where everyone has too much rather than too little. As I said to my friend Juan yesterday, when wishing him a happy New Year, the tough times that were in store really didn't matter. If we really sit down and think about it, very few of us really need a new anything. As long as we have enough to eat, a roof over our heads, and family and friends, this is all that is truly needed.
Let 2009 be a year for homecoming, for family and true friends, and for a bit more understanding of what is important in life, and what it means to be truly human. May our world come a bit closer to Despereaux's, where great soup is something of sustenance and joy to all the people -- rather than an XBox 360, a Ferrari, or a facelift.