The Magician's Elephant Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-09-01 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 228 user ratings

"Peter Augustus Duchene is a ten year old orphan who is undergoing training to become a soldier like his father before him. When his guardian, sends him out to buy some fish and bread at the Baltese market square, he sees a fortune teller tent and decides that answers to his questions are far more important than eating stale bread. Instead he pays the fortune teller to answer a most pressing question... is his sister alive, and if so, how can he find her. See Peter was told that his sister died at birth - but he’s always had this niggling suspicion. The fortune teller answers him with the response "follow the elephant". To Peter, this sounds preposterous and he just assumes the fortune teller is mad. But when a magician across town tries to conjure up a bouquet of flowers for an audience member and instead summons an elephant who crashes through the ceiling of the opera house, an unbelievable chain of events are set into motion.

I loved that throughout the story you get a little bit of each character as some of the chapters flip from one character’s viewpoint to the next. Although the story is about a boy in search of a sister, a magician who just wanted something “more” in life, and an elephant that although alters many a life, does it for the best, it is so much more about love, relationships, darkness and loneliness but also about hoping, dreaming and believing.

The book’s description says it is geared for grades 4 - 7, but I do not think a child can take in and savor Ms. DiCamillo’s writing. Her wordplay is something to behold - something to be spoken out loud. Not just is the story magical but reading it feels like a treasure. You just feel so good doing it. It is a quick read - the pages are small, the writing is simple, with few words on each page, but the message is so tremendous. Ms. Tanaka's illustrations although sparse (and I confess, I would have really liked there to be more of them) only added to the seduction and mystery of this tale.

All in all, I highly recommend this to children and adults of all ages. This would make a lovely Christmas gift and I can definitely envision it on the big screen.
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" This is not a book for children… this is a book for everyone. It is so beautifully written that I truly hope a child could have enough sensibility to be able to appreciate this enchanting little story. (I think it would need to be an older, rather mature child.)My compliments to Yoko Tanaka too. The illustrations are marvelous.NOTE: I thoroughly appreciated how charming and inoffensive this tale was. I found it refreshing. " said.

"Sparse and efficient text create an atmospheric and magical fairy tale of sorts. Set in a gloomy and grey "other-worldly" european town, DiCamillo brings life to a community of characters. The orphan boy Peter, who is being raised by an unstable soldier, takes center stage. His persistent "what if's" send him to a fortuneteller who reveals that his sister is indeed alive. There is also a magician who longs to perform a great feat of magic, but accidentally brings an elephant crashing through the opera ceiling upon a noblewoman in the audience. The message and theme is of hope and interconnection. " said.

"i was so excited for this book. kate dicamillo is probably my favorite author writing right now. after my mother and boyfriends, kate dicamillo is probably the person who can most easily make me cry. if you don't bawl like a baby when winn dixie goes missing you probably have no soul. that said, this book was terribly disappointing. it just tried too hard. dicamillo can write a hauntingly brilliant and touching story about a little girl and her dog. she can write a modern fairy tale like no one else. and now she's trying insanely hard to write an allegory that just isn't that compelling. i found no urgency in this book, nothing surprising, nothing really touching. if it had been much longer i probably wouldn't have finished it. sigh." said.

"A fable? An allegory? A reminder that the unlikeliest things can happen? This is mannered and old-fashioned not unlike the Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane . I, too, was reminded of Hoban's The Mouse and His Child . But in this one, I don't see character development - just the journey. There is some anti-war sentiment and the old soldier is both mildly demented and verging on the abusive since the child has too little to eat and spends much of his day marching in place. He does not want to grow up to be a soldier, but in the end he is taken into the family of a policeman. Is that so very different?
I feel a straining to be literary rather than to tell a story. The illustrations in the ARC fit the story well.
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"As a fan of Despereaux and Edward Tulane, I was anxious to read Kate DiCamillo's latest children's novel. What a disappointment! The Magician's Elephant shares the dreamy, fairy-tale tone of the previous two books, but without the compelling characters or deep emotion. Perhaps the dialogue is not meant to sound realistic, but it tries one's patience to encounter so many exchanges that sound like this (page 135):

"You must come inside. That is the thing which you must immediately do. You must come inside."


"Come inside. We will talk."

"Come inside. First we will eat, and then we will talk."

I found DiCamillo's other books to be quite moving, but not this one. Even her gentle humor is largely missing here. I won't be reading this one to my kids.
" said.

"Ένα μαγευτικό βιβλίο με μία απο τις πιο παραμυθένιες αφηγήσεις που έχω διαβάσει. Ένα βιβλίο που προσπαθεί να πείσει οτι η μαγεία "αρχίζει με κάτι που δε γίνεται και τελείωνει με κάτι που δε γίνεται. Γι'αυτό είναι μαγεία" αλλα τελικά γίνεται, χωρίς δυσκολία, απλώς ελπίζεις, θυμάσαι χαμένες εικόνες, χαμένες γευσεις και πράττεις! Νοσταλγικό, αισιόδοξο, πολύ ώριμο και όπως ξαναείπα μαγευτικό! Τι άλλο θα μπορούσα να ζητήσω απο αυτό το μικρό διαμαντάκι;

"Δες" ήθελε να πει σε κάποιον που θ'αγαπούσε- και που θα τον αγαπούσε κι αυτός. "Δες".
σ. 146.
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"I'm still mulling this one over. There is magic, but more in the magical realism vein of Tiger Rising than in the fairy tale vein of Despereaux. Someone elsewhere here wrote that it had a bit of the feeling of Rumer Godden which made me recall how much I loved that author's work when young. It also made me think of a very favorite book of mine --- Hoban's The Mouse and his Child --- that is, this one too involves the making of an unconventional family group by the end. There is some gorgeous imagery here and the lovely sentences you can always expect from DiCamillo. A very intriguing book that I'm still contemplating.

After I read it myself I started to read it aloud to my class of fourth graders, but sadly did not get far. They felt it was "boring." I didn't think so myself and wonder if the timing was wrong --- it being too close to the end of school which means a quiet book wasn't the best for them just then. Maybe I'll try it again with my class next fall.
" said.

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