Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, totally worn out and screaming,
"WOO HOO, what a ride!"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Review: The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

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 Peter can hardly dare to believe it. But it is - all of it - true.

I had seen this on a few blogs and then my librarian recommended it to me. She had really enjoyed it so I snatched it up. And I'm glad I did! This was such a sad, sweet story. The font and the somber black and white illustrations by Yoko Tanaka give it the feel of a classic fairy tale. It begins in Baltese in the 1800s with a 10-year-old boy named Peter who is fetching fish and bread from the market. His guardian, an old soldier who took him in when he was orphaned, is in fragile health and only thinks of giving the boy proper military training instead of love and comfort. Peter has been told that his younger sister died at birth but he is lonely and desperate to believe he still has family. When he gives his only coin to a fortuneteller she tells him that his sister is alive and that an elephant will lead him to her. An elephant! Peter's newfound joy quickly turns to disbelief and sadness because there are no such animals in his town. But when an old magician conjures up an elephant that crashes through the ceiling of the opera house during his show (he intended to conjure up lilies) a chain of events is set in motion that no one could have predicted.

This is a quick read but the beautiful writing will transport you to another time and another place. It has all the elements for an extraordinary tale - the charming yet lonely characters, desperate circumstances, the courage to go on, love, hope and magic. You will be reminded of what's truly important in life. Although I'm familiar with her work, I haven't read this author in the past. I will be looking for her books now since this was such a delightful read for all ages. Highly recommended!

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Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release date: 9/8/09
Pages: 208
Price/format: $16.99/hardcover
Type: children's fiction
Age: 8-13


  1. I read/reviewed this one this past week as well. Love it; loved your review and BTW...did you change your header picture?? It is great!!!

  2. I'd love to read this one! I've heard so much about DiCamillo...

  3. This sounds perfect for the Read-a-thon in a few weeks!


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