Review Blog

Oct 28 2009

The Magician's Elephant by Kate diCamilo

cover image

Candlewick Press, 2009. ISBN 9780763644109.
(Ages 9+) Highly recommended. This beautifully written fable, the story of Peter, brought up by an old, befuddled soldier, but all the time dreaming of his sister, will tug at the heart strings of all readers. Peter's mother died at the birth of his sister, and he remembers holding the baby and promising his mother he would look after her. But the soldier, an army friend of his dead father, reminds him that his sister was still born. Peter cannot shake off the idea his sister is alive, and when a fortune teller comes to the town, he uses the florin given him by the soldier for their meager tea, to ask the fortune teller about his sister. He is told she is alive and will find her through an elephant.
This extraordinary piece of news, the first of many extraordinary things which occur through this story, has Peter reeling at the news that an elephant has dropped through the ceiling of the local opera house, causing pandemonium. The magician who conjured the elephant has been thrown into jail, and when Peter visits the elephant, he is touched by her sadness of being separated from her family. So Peter acts, bringing all the protagonists together in a final act which sees the elephant returned, the magician released, Peter and Adele reunited and both the children with a loving family.
A superbly told story of imaging the unimaginable, of hoping against all hope for your dreams to come true, this is one of those stories that will pass from hand to hand, rarely left on the shelves.
Fran Knight

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