Review by Ian Keogh
Dor is a place prized around the globe for its soup, and the creation of a new soup annually is a cause for celebration and admiration. That is until the day a soup-related incident involving Roscuro the rat causes the death of the Queen, after which all soup and all rats are outlawed in the city, and all colour disappears.
It’s some while later that the birth of baby mouse Despereaux Tilling brings joy to his parents. He grows up hearing the story of the banned soup, and also grows up utterly fearless, willing to take risks other mice shun. In addition, he’s smarter than your average mouse. Taken to the library by his father and advised which part of a book’s page is the tastiest, Despereaux instead starts reading the books, and is very taken with the concepts of honour and chivalry.
How faithfully this adapts the animated film, which is the basis, or Kate DiCamillo’s original novel could be up for discussion, but as a graphic novel this works. Matt Smith’s script covers all the salient points, transmits the whimsical world of the mouse community, and supplies a lead character to care for. Part of that is down to artist David Tilton, whose mice ooze charm and personality, although he’s very much from the school of drawing figures embedded in very basic backgrounds or panels where the only background is colour.
Despereaux eventually meets the exiled Roscuro, and while much of what follows is predictable, there are some nice touches along the way, such as Roscuro being fooled by a distorted reflection, and how the villains develop. In places the story seems to leap from one point to the next very rapidly, possibly the result of being an adaptation of an adaptation, but overall The Tale of Despereaux is an engaging story of redemption pressing the right buttons. A little more artistic effort, and it would be a real winner.