The magician's elephant / Kate DiCamillo ; illustrated by Yoko Tanaka.

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  • Additional Information
    • Publication Information:
      1st ed.
    • Abstract:
      Summary: When ten-year-old orphan Peter Augustus Duchene encounters a fortune teller in the marketplace one day and she tells him that his sister, who is presumed dead, is in fact alive, he embarks on a remarkable series of adventures as he desperately tries to find her.
    • ISBN:
      9780763644109
      0763644102
    • Accession Number:
      2009007359
    • Accession Number:
      ocn310399721
      310399721
    • Accession Number:
      fay.285614

Reviews

Booklist Reviews 2009 July #1

*Starred Review* From the unexpectedly miraculous feats of a two-bit illusionist to the transformative powers of love, forgiveness, and a good mutton stew, there is much magic afoot in this fablelike tale from the author of the Newbery-winning Tale of Despereaux (2003). In DiCamillo's fifth novel, a young orphan named Peter Augustus Duchene suspects that the sibling he long thought dead is actually alive. Peter seeks out the services of a fortune-teller, who informs him that his younger sister, Adele, lives and—even more astoundingly—that an elephant will lead him to her. The winter-worn city of Baltese seems the last place Peter could expect to find such an exotic creature, but that very night a magician performing at the local opera house conjures one out of thin air, a wondrous but cataclysmic event that proves to have dire consequences. When the displaced elephant is put on public display, Peter is so stirred by her obvious suffering that he is compelled to risk the one chance he has of finding Adele to set things right. Although the novel explores many of the same weighty issues as DiCamillo's previous works, characters here face even more difficult hurdles, including the loss of loved ones, physical disabilities, and the cost of choices made out of desperation and fear. The profound and deeply affecting emotions at work in the story are buoyed up by the tale's succinct, lyrical text; gentle touches of humor; and uplifting message of redemption, hope, and the interminable power of asking, What if? Tanaka's charming black-and-white acrylic illustrations have a soft, period feel that perfectly matches the tone of this spellbinding story. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2010 Spring

In a fictional Old World city, Peter searches for his sister, instructed by a fortuneteller to "follow the elephant." The book's theme is the triumph of hope over despair, as Peter's idea that the "world is broken" gives way to a belief in possibility. DiCamillo's prose is remarkable in this allegorical and surreal novel. Copyright 2010 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2009 #5

DiCamillo's allegorical novel seems to pack more mass per square inch than average. The plot is fantastical, surreal: in the fictional Old World city of Baltese, orphaned Peter searches for his sister (whom he has long thought dead), having been instructed by a fortuneteller to "follow the elephant." Against all odds, there is an elephant: conjured up by a magician by accident, it has landed on a woman's lap, crippling her. As DiCamillo expands her premise, she adds more and more characters to her cast (ˆ la The Mouse and His Child), from a singing beggar to a countess to an old soldier fixated on war. The book's theme is the triumph of hope over despair, as Peter's belief that the "world is broken and it cannot be fixed" eventually gives way to a belief in possibility ("What if? Why not? Could it be?") -- familiar territory for this author (The Tale of Despereaux, rev. 9/03; The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, rev. 3/06). But its manifestation here is unusually varied, from homey (a nourishing soup Peter's new mother feeds him) to ecstatic (a nun's dream of flying over a glowing Earth). And the prose is remarkable, reflecting influences from Kafka to the theater of the absurd to Laurel-and-Hardy humor. Even DiCamillo's characters influence the language: in scenes revolving around the self-important countess, the prose becomes verbose, repetitive, full of embedded parentheses. The novel's virtuosity, however, creates a distance between book and reader that may confound the author's fans. This may not be a crowd-pleaser, but it's an impressive addition to the DiCamillo canon. Copyright 2009 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

PW Reviews 2009 August #3

In DiCamillo's fifth novel, a clairvoyant tells 10-year-old Peter, an orphan living with a brain-addled ex-soldier, that an elephant will lead him to his sister, who the ex-soldier claims died at birth. The fortuneteller's prediction seems cruelly preposterous as there are no pachyderms anywhere near Baltese, a vaguely eastern European city enduring a bitter winter. Then that night at the opera house, a magician "of advanced years and failing reputation" attempts to conjure a bouquet of lilies but instead produces an elephant that crashes through the ceiling. Peter learns that both magician and beast have been jailed, and upon first glimpse of the imprisoned elephant, Peter realizes that his fate and the elephant's are linked. The mannered prose and Tanaka's delicate, darkly hued paintings give the story a somber and old-fashioned feel. The absurdist elements—street vendors peddle chunks of the now-infamous opera house ceiling with the cry "Possess the plaster of disaster!"—leaven the overall seriousness, and there is a happy if predictable ending for the eccentric cast of anguished characters, each finding something to make them whole. Ages 8–13. (Sept.)

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