Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fiction: The Magician's Elephant

Kate DiCamillo is the much loved author of The Tale of Despereaux, and Because of Winn Dixie. Her trademark writing style is showcased again in this new book about an orphan boy seeking his lost sister.
Young Peter Augustus Duchene spends his guardian's scarce coins on a fortuneteller instead of food. He is excited by her news: his long lost sister, separated from him at birth, still lives! However, the fortune teller's advice of "follow the elephant" seems improbable. Where would an elephant come from in their Baltese?
But magic is at work in the opera house, and an elephant does appear. Soon the various threads of townsfolk weave together to bring each of them solace and peace in the cold winter.
This atmospheric, elegant tale is similar in tone to The Tale of Desperaux. It has the same faint feel of a fairy tale, and it makes no effort to hide the fact that children and adults can be sorrowful, and can endure great suffering. In the end, I was very glad to see that DiCamillo pulls a satisfyingly happy ending out of the magician's hat.

Kids who like thoughtful, quiet books may find this one appealing. The mood is altogether restrained and somehow cool, so those who prefer fast plot driven action will look elsewhere. Again, this is a terrific book for the right kid, but one that will demand much of the reader.
Grades 4-7
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