The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Read: based on the recommendation of … someone. I seriously cannot remember who. (Candlewick, 208 pages)
Rating: 9 out of 10 (finished 2/10/10)
Synopsis: On a perfectly ordinary day, Peter Augustus Duchene goes to the market square of the city of Baltese. Instead of buying the fish and bread that his guardian, Vilna Lutz, has asked him to procure, he uses the coin to pay a fortune-teller to get information about his sister, whom he believes to be dead. He is told that she is alive, and that an elephant will lead him to her. That very night at a performance in the town’s opera house, a magician conjures up an elephant (by mistake) that crashes through the roof and cripples the society dame she happens to land on. The lives of the boy, his guardian, and the local policeman, along with the magician and his unfortunate victim, as well as a beggar, his dog, a sculptor, and a nun all intertwine in a series of events triggered by the appearance of the elephant.
Overall Impression: I’ve been reading a little more children’s and young adult fiction lately. I didn’t read much last year because I was reading to raise money for Blood:Water Mission and I sort of felt like it was cheating, since the reading is easier. But I’ve seen several books recommended recently that I really wanted to read, this one included. I’m so glad that I did! I thought this fairy tale was a complete and utter delight. The writing was spare but very beautiful. It reminded me a little of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief — the writing style had a similar poetic, repetitive feel (if you haven’t read The Book Thief, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy!). The story gracefully moved along to its inevitable end. Other than the elephant dropping through the ceiling, there were no major surprises or twists or turns. It was just the elegant story of a boy who refused to believe what he had been told, and set out to make things right. One note — I’m not sure which kids are going to like this book. There is not a lot of action or crazy characters. This would probably be best read by that ten-year-old girl — you know the one — who has those eyes that make you think, Yikes. This girl is smarter than me.
Pros: Elegant language, whimsical story line, STUNNING illustrations by Yoko Tanaka
Cons: It’s a children’s book but I’m not sure how many children would truly appreciate and enjoy it.
Other books I’ve read by Kate DiCamillo: none