When author Kate DiCamillo addressed the American Booksellers Association’s award luncheon a couple years ago, I was smitten. Few authors speak as powerfully in person as on the page, and Kate is one of them. She told of how, as a young girl, she discovered books in her town’s small local bookstore, and how it changed her life forever.
Years later, Kate DiCamillo would change the lives of countless young readers herself. She did it with the help of a very small mouse.
The Tale of Despereaux is the book that not only won the most prestigious award given to children’s books—the Newbery Medal—but also gave to children and adults a story that will likely endure alongside those from Hans Christian Andersen, A. A. Milne and E. B. White. Despereaux, you see, is a little mouse with the big ears and bigger heart who is desperate to save a princess.
Despereaux went Hollywood several years ago, with a full-length feature film from Universal Studios. In 2012, Kate and Levenger conspired to bring him into 3D as a bookend. And this bookend itself tells a story.
Levenger Press editor Mim Harrison spoke with Kate about Despereaux’s morphing from an idea in her head to an object on her shelf. Here’s their conversation:
Kate DiCamillo: It is an odd and humbling thing to sit alone in a dark room in the early hours of morning and try to imagine your way into the heart and soul of a (smaller-than-average) mouse, and then to watch him come to life in so many different ways. It truly seems like a dream to me.
LP: How is it different from seeing him being made into an animated film?
Kate: There is something wonderful about being able to reach out and actually touch the top of Despereaux's head. It was grand to see him up on the screen. And it is comforting to think about having him on my bookshelf.
LP: When you’re first creating the characters for your books in your head, do you see them in 3-D?
Kate: I do! They are whole, complete, multi-dimensional, complicated and confounding in my mind.
LP: Despereaux is a children’s book—the recipient of the Newbery Medal for children’s literature, in fact—and yet you use grown-up words like coda in it. How do you write to appeal equally to children and adults?
Kate: I just work on trying to tell the story in the best way I am able. That is, I try to get out of my own way and let the story tell me what to do.
LP: For readers who haven’t read Despereaux (cripes, as Despereaux’s brother might say), what would you want to tell them about why there’s a spool of red thread on the bookend?
LP: Your message on the bottom of the bookend says, “Reader, I hope you found some light here.” What did you mean by that?
And now to you, dear reader: what was the book where, as a youngster, you found light and comfort? I’d love to hear. Just click on the Comments link below with your submission. (If you’re reading this as an email, click here and you'll connect to Comments).