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.
I love Kate Dicamillo’s books from what I’ve managed to pick up, ever since reading The Tale of Despereaux years ago. They capture me everytime I pick one up, and The Magician’s Elephant was no different! This heartwarming tale was exactly the kind of book you want to read snuggled up on a winters night.
If you haven’t heard of Kate DiCamillo, she’s a middle grade author from the states who has had a number of her books succesfully adapted for the screen. They are adorable and I want them to be gifted to every 9 year old on their birthday. The ones Ive read had a fantasy element but feel real, and this was no different. The Magician’s Elephant was no exception – the story being about an elephant falling through the ceiling of a theatre. But I loved it all the same. I adored Peter, and felt so sorry for him, thinking his whole family had died but being so conflicted as he believed it not to be true. The lack of affection from his guardian was awful too and I so wanted him to find more of a family.
The illustrations in the book, drawn by Yoko Tanaka, were stunning and really brought it all to life. I loved how fantastical they felt. The writing was simply yet poetic and the storyline was beautiful. The city the characters lived in was I believe a fantasy city, but it felt like it was Eastern European. It had bene ravaged by war not long ago and it gave me a very post-World War One feeling while I was reading.
This book would make a beautiful bedtime story for a more mature child than Spike. There are a lot of worrying elements to it, with a character becoming disabled, and definite mental health worries for a number of characters in the book. With these mature themes running through it prepare yourself for some questions if sharing it with a child. But I thought they were handled well and as always, at least from the books by this author I have read, there’s a happy ending to the tale.
The Magician’s Elephant reminded me of a children’s classic type book. Along the lines of The Secret Garden or something like that. It has an older feel to it and is a simply story, but beautiful all the same. I 100% would recommend it for anyone whole loves a beautiful story. What’s more, a Netflix Adaptation of the story is apparently on its way, so I really would read it before that comes out!
The Magician’s Elephant was published by Walker Books in 2010 – then republished in 2015. My copy was loaned from my local library.
For more info or to buy the book head to: