Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Magician's Elephant - Kate DiCamillo

Title: The Magician's Elephant
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2009 (Hardcover)
Length: 208 pages
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Started: September 17, 2009
Finished: September 17, 2009

From the inside cover:
What if? Why not? Could it be?

When a fortuneteller's tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her? The fortuneteller's mysterious answer (an elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true.

But it is-all of it- true.

I wish more books like these existed when I was younger. Kate DiCamillo writes beautiful stories that manage to convey life-long lessons through simple storytelling. The Magician's Elephant is clearly written for young children, but the themes about trusting the unexpected and faith in the impossible can be appreciated by anyone. The story comes across as a fable of sorts where Peter is in search of his long-lost sister and his encounters with the magician and the elephant eventually lead him to her. There are parts where only adults will truly appreciate some of the more subtle images that come with experience that will just go over children's heads, but I think some adults who have trouble suspending their disbelief would have trouble enjoying a story like this that assumes the reader believes without question (which is part of the charm). The book is a breath of fresh air, it reminds you what storytelling is at its core: simple yet elegant, and beyond all else-powerful.

If you're looking for a simple yet refreshing tale or something to read to the kids or to a primary/junior class then definitely pick this up.

Thoughts on the cover:
Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka, who also does the illustrations in the book itself, the cover shows the book's namesake crashing through the top of the opera house by the magician who claims he only intended to conjure lillies. It's very eye-catching, done all in shades of green and a look that makes you feel you're watching all this through a foggy window.

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