The Magician's Elephant Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-02-22 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 228 user ratings

"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.
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"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.
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"I loved this book ... everything about it! The story line, the words, the dialogues, the illustrations, even the paper of this edition! It was so worth the high cost I got it for. I don't regret it.

Truly, an elephant is a faithful friend, and matriarchal by nature too. Everything in this book is magical -- and I bet only readers with childlike eyes and disposition would believe that magic is possible, even if everything in it is actually impossible.

"Magic is always impossible," said the magician. "It begins with the impossible and ends with the impossible and is impossible in between. That is why it is magic."

But as David Pomeranz says ...

Got to believe in magic,
Tell me how two people find each other
In a world that's full of strangers;
You've got to believe in magic,
Somethin' stronger than the moon above
'Cause it's magic when two people fall in love.

cheezy ... but yes, elephants do know how to love! and they have the sweetest and purest silent kind of love.



" said.

"In an allegorical novella reminiscent of an Eastern European fairy tale, young Peter is told by a fortune teller that an elephant will lead him to his long-lostsister. As Peter hadn’t even been certain that his sister was alive, this is excellent news, especially considering his grim life as a sort of apprentice to his guardian, an unbalanced old soldier who has cared for Peter since his parents died.

The only catch is that thre is no elephant in the town of Baltese – until, that is, a magician causes one to fall through the roof of the Bliffendorf Opera House. The sudden and anomalous presence of this elephant has a profound effect on all the people of Baltese, but most especially on Peter, his sister Adele, and a small and eccentric assortment of quietly anguished people.

Everything about this slim tale, from the quaint font style (Pabst Oldstyle) to the warm yet somber acrylic illustrations to the almost allegorical appearance of the elephant, brings to mind absurdist Russian/Eastern European tales like Gogol’s The Nose or Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, in which bizarre situations highlight truths about the human condition.

I cut my teeth on those kind of stories and so this tale of the fulfillment of heretofore unsuspected or buried hopes and desires felt familiar and comfortable. The writing is smooth, with just enough texture to keep one’s full attention, and the few illustrations I saw in my ARC copy were atmospheric and terrific. However, I can’t see many kids cottoning to the old-fashioned, almost mystical tone of this story, and the characters, including young Peter, remain strangely flat and enigmatic. There was altogether a distant, cool mood to the story that probably won’t appeal to kids who loved The Tale of Despereaux or Because of Wynn Dixie. Still, kids who persevere will be rewarded by an odd yet moving story.

Recommended for old souls in grades 4 – 7.
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"A light, quick read, and might be a suitable bedtime story for more mature children. Reading this as an adult (well I'm not sure I'm one yet but my ID says so in the legal sense), however, doesn't bring much to the table other than light whimsical entertainment value. I like how the illustrations match and complement the story beautifully.

The story tells of Peter, a boy who lives with Vilna-Lutz, an ex-war veteran who took him in after he's orphaned. Peter's days were pretty spartan until one day, he made a life-turning choice that led him to embark on a journey to fulfil the most important promise he's made so far, and ultimately finds his true life purpose. Starting with the fortune teller, Peter meets many other characters that in turns guide, inspire, alter his views and help him in his quest.

Compared to The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, this is less magical. The characters are still distinct and charming though, and dependable DiCamillo is adept at gathering empathy even for her less-than-good characters. This is DiCamillo Lite I'd say.

The event descriptions are quite structured, with each chapter normally focusing on a character. The plot flows smoothly with some delightful surprises even though the overall storyline is pretty predictable.

I imagine myself to be in a quaint little European town full of whimsical elements like Prague, with light symphonies playing in the background. My feeling throughout most of my reading the story were pleasant, but rarely excited or awestruck. It's more of an ambivalent, lullaby-esque kind of story, with just a little bit of hope instilled in you by the end of the book: that all will end well and what's seemingly impossible is possible in small, perhaps even uneventful steps, that can grow more and more miraculous; that there is magic in our everyday lives, and that all it takes is a little belief in the possibility that things can be better, to start it all.
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April 2018 New Book:

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