The Magician's Elephant
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In a highly awaited new novel, Kate DiCamillo conjures a haunting fable about trusting the unexpected — and making the extraordinary come true.
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. With atmospheric illustrations by fine artist Yoko Tanaka, here is a dreamlike and captivating tale that could only be narrated by Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo. In this timeless fable, she evokes the largest of themes — hope and belonging, desire and compassion — with the lightness of a magician’s touch.
- Amazon Sales Rank: #49536 in Books
- Brand: Candlewick Press
- Published on: 2009-09-08
- Released on: 2009-09-08
- Original language: English
- Number of items: 1
- Dimensions: 7.98" h x .78" w x 5.61" l, .68 pounds
- Binding: Hardcover
- 208 pages
- Great product!
Amazon Best of the Month, September 2009: Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo--author of The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane-- has crafted another exquisite novel for young readers. The Magician's Elephant tells the tale of Peter Augustus Duchene, a ten-year-old orphan who receives an unbelievable piece of information from the local fortuneteller. Peter learns that his fate is tied to an elephant that has inexplicably fallen from the sky when a magician's trick goes terribly wrong. Why did it happen? And, how can an elephant possibly change the course of Peter's life? This darkly atmospheric, yet hopeful tale, demonstrates that when the answers to life’s big questions are opaque or unforthcoming, all is not lost. DiCamillo's rhythmic writing, combined with Yoko Tanaka's mysterious black-and-white illustrations, enchants and calls out to our sincerest wishes and dreams (recommended for readers ages 8-13). --Lauren Nemroff
From School Library Journal
Starred Review. Grade 4–6—On a perfectly ordinary day, Peter Augustus Duchene goes to the market square of the city of Baltese. Instead of buying the fish and bread that his guardian, Vilna Lutz, has asked him to procure, he uses the coin to pay a fortune-teller to get information about his sister, whom he believes to be dead. He is told that she is alive, and that an elephant will lead him to her. That very night at a performance in the town's opera house, a magician conjures up an elephant (by mistake) that crashes through the roof and cripples the society dame she happens to land on. The lives of the boy, his guardian, and the local policeman, along with the magician and his unfortunate victim, as well as a beggar, his dog, a sculptor, and a nun all intertwine in a series of events triggered by the appearance of the elephant. Miraculous events resolve not only the mystery of the whereabouts of Peter's sister, but also the deeper needs of all of the individuals involved. DiCamillo's carefully crafted prose creates an evocative aura of timelessness for a story that is, in fact, timeless. Tanaka's acrylic artwork is meticulous in detail and aptly matches the tone of the narrative. This is a book that demands to be read aloud.—Tim Wadham, St. Louis County Library, MO
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From Kirkus Reviews
*Starred Review* Ages 8-13. Ten-year-old Peter Augustus Duchene goes to the market for fish and bread but spends it at the fortuneteller's tent instead. Seeking his long-lost sister, Peter is told, "You must follow the elephant. She will lead you there." And that very night at the Bliffenendorf Opera House, a magician's spell goes awry, conjuring an elephant that crashes through the ceiling and lands on Madam Bettine LaVaughn. Reading like a fable told long ago, with rich language that begs to be read aloud, this is a magical story about hope and love, loss and home, and of questioning the world versus accepting it as it is. Brilliant imagery juxtaposes "glowering and resentful" gargoyles and snow, stars and the glowing earth, and Tanaka's illustrations (not all seen) bring to life the city and characters from "the end of the century before last." A quieter volume than The Tale of Despereaux (2003) and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (2006), this has an equal power to haunt readers long past the final page. (Fantasy. Ages 8-13)
Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful.
Not quite what I was expecting.
By L. A. Vitale
I have loved elephants for as long as I can remember. My mom use to read Babar the Elephant stories to me as a toddler and I loved the Babar series. I use to ask her to read these books to me repeatedly as a youngster... Not that I can remember any of this now.
I was also a fan of the Disney movie Dumbo as a child and slept with a stuffed Dumbo that my parents had bought from Disneyland before I was even born.
Needless to say I love elephants. Earlier this year, I came across a used copy of The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Yoko Tanaka. It's a children's book, but I bought it as I was intrigued by the title and the storyline... And, of course, I couldn't pass up a story about an elephant! So in an effort to channel my inner child, I read The Magician's Elephant.
After I finished reading The Magician's Elephant, I was kind of feeling so-so about it. I actually have mixed feelings about this novel. For the most part The Magician's Elephant is going to be a forgettable read for me... It's a quick read, with some finer points to it that make it a sweet read. But overall, I wouldn't go recommending this novel to others. My favorite lines from The Magician's Elephant are the the questions "What if? Why not? Could it be?" that are sprinkled throughout this novel. I took the questions to mean that a person should be open to the possibility that some sort of miracle or something magical might happen if only we were open to it happening in the first place.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful.
bleak artsy children's (?) book
By audrey frances
This is one of those books that has prose that reads like poetry (and so it benefits from being read aloud), but it's not got much action, nor cheer, nor warmth, and the beautiful language only partly redeems this intriguing but ultimately unsatisfying story. It was evident quite early on what the resolution would be, but it was rather a dreary walk to get there. One would think that a story about a magician conjuring an elephant that falls through the roof of an opera house would be quite exciting, and the reviews have certainly sung high praise, but it's more like an NPR host reading the text of a 1960s French noir film -- characters exhibit eccentric behavior and utter irrational things that are meant to be profound, and the repetitive language wears thin. As an adult I quickly became bored; the children I read it to wanted to know the ending, but found the material tedious, and agreed with the three-star rating.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful.
A modern day book that reads like a classic fairy tale
I've been slowly making my way through a rather long list of recommended books from my librarian friend, and the premise of this one sounded really interesting. So after diving in, I came away with renewed hope that just maybe, there really IS magic out there (not in the literal sense, but more in that miracles CAN happen, either through divine intervention, fate, or luck).
Taking place at the turn of the century, a young orphan boy named Peter, desperately searching to better his lot in life, wishes to find his long lost sister, who he believes is still alive out there, somewhere (despite his cratchety caregiver saying otherwise). He visits a fortune teller, who tells him "the elephant will lead you there". Not long after, an elephant crashes through the roof of an opera house out of thin air, thanks to a magician's magic trick gone wrong. From there, the elephant catches the attention and imagination of the entire city, and we bounce back and forth between various points of view, including Peter, the elephant herself, the magician, the noblewoman who was crippled in the accident, a beggar and his dog, a policeman, and many others; all of whom are directly or indirectly affected by the elephant, and how this one magic trick changes their lives forever.
Simply put, the author has created a fairy tale. An actual, technical explanation for how the elephant appeared is never explained (despite many of the characters trying) and one isn't needed. Her presence simply serves as a catalyst that sets the characters in motion. Nearly all the main players lead fairly unhappy and/or dull lives, and whether they're aware of it or not, wish for something better to happen, or just some simple excitement to shake things up. Of course, the appearance of the elephant is more than anyone bargained for, but through the course of the story. one thing leads to another, and like a domino effect, the characters' lives become more intertwined, until finally, one final magical event brings them all together. (Won't spoil anymore.)
Some characters get more backstory than others (with Peter being the main player), but all of them are nice to get to know, and none of them feel like just plot devices. It makes me wish that I lived in this town with these quirky, but loveable people. And like all good fairy tales, this one comes with a nice lesson in not losing hope, and that even in the darkest of times, or saddest of circumstances, all isn't lost, and that with a little ingenuity, you can turn your world around and change things for the better.
The book is fairly short (you can read it in an afternoon), and while normally I'd want the story to be longer, here, I think the length is just about right. It says what needs to be said with just enough description, and moves at a good pace without dragging anything out for too long. It's a modern day book that feels like a classic fairy tale from the olden days. I recommend it.