The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka. Candlewick Press, 2009.

“What if?”

What if elephants could drop out of the sky? What if dreams could come true? What if magic was really possible? The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo asks the reader to consider these questions. Instead of seeing the impossible, what if we dared to dream?

It all begins when the orphan boy Peter encounters a fortuneteller in the market square of the city of Baltese. Instead of buying bread and fish, he spends his guardian’s coin to have his fortune told. And what a fortune it is! His younger sister, whom he’d believed dead, lives. And an elephant will lead Peter to her. When Peter argues that there are no elephants in the city, the fortuneteller tells him to wait a while and see. After all, “the truth is forever changing.” Soon after, a magician conjures an elephant through the roof of the opera house and events are set in motion that will forever change the lives of people as varied as Peter, the policeman and his wife, a nun, and a beggar with his dog.

While it’s not a new book, The Magician’s Elephant deserves a second look. DiCamillo has a talent for bringing characters to life and weaving them together in a heart-warming story. Her prose is particularly suited to reading aloud. While the themes, including loneliness, can be dark, the end is an uplifting account of the power of belief and the magic of love. Tanaka’s soft, atmospheric illustrations beautifully capture the mood of the tale.

I loved DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux, so when I came across The Magician’s Elephant while browsing the shelves of my local library, I couldn’t resist borrowing it. I’m glad I did!


About booksnquilts

I'm the Children's Services Coordinator for the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library in Central Virginia.
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