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The Magician's Elephant

A book by Kate DiCamillo

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Amazing, stunning, spectacular

  • Oct 16, 2009
  • by
Peter Augustus Duchene is a ten year old orphan who is undergoing training to become a soldier like his father before him. When his guardian, sends him out to buy some fish and bread at the Baltese market square, he sees a fortune teller tent and decides that answers to his questions are far more important than eating stale bread. Instead he pays the fortune teller to answer a most pressing question... is his sister alive, and if so, how can he find her. See Peter was told that his sister died at birth - but he's always had this niggling suspicion. The fortune teller answers him with the response "follow the elephant". To Peter, this sounds preposterous and he just assumes the fortune teller is mad. But when a magician across town tries to conjure up a bouquet of flowers for an audience member and instead summons an elephant who crashes through the ceiling of the opera house, an unbelievable chain of events are set into motion.

I loved that throughout the story you get a little bit of each character as some of the chapters flip from one character's viewpoint to the next. Although the story is about a boy in search of a sister, a magician who just wanted something "more" in life, and an elephant that although alters many a life, does it for the best, it is so much more about love, relationships, darkness and loneliness but also about hoping, dreaming and believing.

The book's description says it is geared for grades 4 - 7, but I do not think a child can take in and savor Ms. DiCamillo's writing. Her wordplay is something to behold - something to be spoken out loud. Not just is the story magical but reading it feels like a treasure. You just feel so good doing it. It is a quick read - the pages are small, the writing is simple, with few words on each page, but the message is so tremendous. Ms. Tanaka's illustrations although sparse (and I confess, I would have really liked there to be more of them) only added to the seduction and mystery of this tale.

All in all, I highly recommend this to children and adults of all ages. This would make a lovely Christmas gift and I can definitely envision it on the big screen.

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review by . September 17, 2009
I very much liked this book just as I very much like all of Kate DiCamillo's works for older children. It has depth and feeling and a dark mood that calls for internal reflection. (Similar to what one finds in Edward Tulane, and to an extent the Tale of Desperaux.)    The story starts out with Peter, an orphan who is living with a military man of dubious sanity and health. But it quickly unfolds to be more complex, becoming in the end a book that is not just about one character, …
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Nely Sanchez ()
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I review books as a hobby for my personal blog - All About {n} which can be found at www.bookwormygirl.com. There you can find all sorts of book reviews, book giveaways and just random bookish events, … more
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Amazon Best of the Month, September 2009:Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo--author ofThe Tale of DespereauxandThe Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane-- has crafted another exquisite novel for young readers.The Magician's Elephanttells 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 
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ISBN-10: 0763644102
ISBN-13: 978-0763644109
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Genre: Children's Books
Publisher: Candlewick
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