July 6, 2012

The Magician's Elephant

THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT by Kate DiCamillo, Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka (Candlewick, 2007)
GENRE: Fantasy
HONORS: Booklist Editor's Choice, 2007

REVIEW: The Magician’s Elephant concerns a boy whose greatest wish is to know if the sister is still alive. A fortune-teller reveals that she is, and that to find her, he must "follow the elephant." While the boy, Peter Augustus Duchene, is very much the protagonist, DiCamillo takes full advantage of her omniscient narrator by also presenting the perspectives of the lost sister, the magician (who is imprisoned after the elephant falls on a noblewoman), a kind police inspector, and even the elephant herself. She does so fluidly - the changes in perspective feel very natural to the narrative - and in doing so, allows this simple story to take on a universality that is gently appealing.

OPINION: The Magician's Elephant doesn't read as fantasy, but it does have a whimsical sense of the fabulous which makes you feel like your reading a story much older than it is. Though not an overly dynamic book it is lovely, full of warm shadows and inevitable magic.

IDEAS: The Magician’s Elephant is a good book for kids ready for a book to draw inferences and make connections but that is not too long or complex. The fortune teller’s mysterious message and what follows are unusual enough to attract some reluctant readers, as well.

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