So, I also snagged The Tale of Despereux at the Scholastic Warehouse Sale. Little did I know that it is the junior novelization (which is basically like reading the screenplay) and not the original book. After reading some reviews for the original book, and going to see the movie, I tend to think that this version is better suited to Evalina's age.
The Story: Despereux is a brave mouse, which makes him an outcast in mouse society. He befriends a human Princess, which gets him banished to the dungeons, where the rats live. Through a misunderstanding, a rat named Roscuro killed the Queen, which got soup and rats banned from the kingdom (read it, it will make sense), but Roscuro becomes the only friend Despereaux has in the rats, all the rest of whom would just as soon eat him. When the Princess is unwilling to see past the fact that Roscuro is a rat, when he tries to apologize for killing the Queen (again, long story), Roscuro turns on his better nature, and goes bad. He encourages a jealous servant girl to kidnap the Princess, and only Despereux can save her.
The Good: Due to the fact it is the junior novelization of the movie, the descriptions are fantastic. The characters are full and lively, and Evalina enjoyed it very much, as did I. There are a few fun dialects to play with, and the message of courage and bravery is a good one. We went to see the movie, and it was a very good one - beautiful animation!
The Bad: Even in the Disneyfied version, there are quite a few scary moments. The servant girl is portrayed as really quite stupid, though if reviews are to be believed, she is worse in the original story. The abrupt death of the Queen caught me off guard.
The Verdict: Loved the movie, and was glad to have read the book first, even if it isn't the original story. It made me want to make a big pot of soup. (Again, read the book or watch the movie, and you'll understand). I will be more careful to look at the cover of a book before I buy it in the future, because I'd rather be getting the authentic story. Still, as mentioned, I think that the Disneyfied version is fine for a child of Evalina's age.