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The Magician's Elephant Hardcover – September 8, 2009

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best of the Month, September 2009: Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo--author of The Tale of Despereaux and The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane-- has crafted another exquisite novel for young readers. The Magician's Elephant tells the tale of Peter Augustus Duchene, a ten-year-old orphan who receives an unbelievable piece of information from the local fortuneteller. Peter learns that his fate is tied to an elephant that has inexplicably fallen from the sky when a magician's trick goes terribly wrong. Why did it happen? And, how can an elephant possibly change the course of Peter's life? This darkly atmospheric, yet hopeful tale, demonstrates that when the answers to life’s big questions are opaque or unforthcoming, all is not lost. DiCamillo's rhythmic writing, combined with Yoko Tanaka's mysterious black-and-white illustrations, enchants and calls out to our sincerest wishes and dreams (recommended for readers ages 8-13). --Lauren Nemroff 

From School Library Journal

Starred Review. Grade 4–6—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. Miraculous events resolve not only the mystery of the whereabouts of Peter's sister, but also the deeper needs of all of the individuals involved. DiCamillo's carefully crafted prose creates an evocative aura of timelessness for a story that is, in fact, timeless. Tanaka's acrylic artwork is meticulous in detail and aptly matches the tone of the narrative. This is a book that demands to be read aloud.—Tim Wadham, St. Louis County Library, MO
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Read the First Chapter
Download and read the first chapter of The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. [PDF]

Product Details

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 730L (What's this?)
  • Series: AWARDS: ALA Best Books for Young Adults 2010
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick; 1 edition (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763644102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763644109
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (270 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

The theme of hope and belief amid impossible circumstances is a common thread in much of Kate DiCamillo's writing, and no matter their nationality or age, readers around the world have come to appreciate and anticipate the messages of shared humanity and connectedness in her work.

In her instant #1 New York Times bestseller The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, a haughty china rabbit undergoes a profound transformation after finding himself facedown on the ocean floor -- lost, and waiting to be found. The Tale of Despereaux -- the Newbery Medal-winning novel that later inspired an animated adventure from Universal Pictures --stars a tiny mouse with exceptionally large ears who is driven by love to become an unlikely hero. And The Magician's Elephant, an acclaimed and exquisitely paced fable, dares to
ask the question, What if?

Kate DiCamillo's own journey is something of a dream come true. After moving to Minnesota from Florida in her twenties, homesickness and a bitter winter helped inspire Because of Winn-Dixie -- her first published novel, which, remarkably, became a runaway bestseller and snapped up a Newbery Honor. "After the Newbery committee called me, I spent the whole day walking into walls," she says. "I was stunned. And very, very happy."

The author's second novel, The Tiger Rising, went on to become a National Book Award Finalist. And since then, this master storyteller, whose books are now published in more than forty languages, has written for a wide range of ages. Her luminous holiday picture book, Great Joy, is enjoyed by children as young as preschoolers. Three early-chapter-book series demonstrate a quirky humor that appeals to emerging readers, whether the books feature "porcine wonder" Mercy Watson in her obsessive pursuit of buttered toast, or Bink and Gollie, who embody the tall and short of a marvelous friendship. More recently, spin-off characters from Mercy Watson have appeared in Tales from Deckawoo Drive, a series launched in Fall 2014 with the first title featuring the reformed thief Leroy Ninker.

Kate DiCamillo's latest novel and second Newbery Medal winner, Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, was released in Fall 2013 to great acclaim, garnering five starred reviews and an instant spot on the New York Times bestseller list. A laugh-out-loud story filled with eccentric, endearing characters and featuring an exciting new format -- a novel interspersed with comic-style graphic sequences and full-page black-and-white illustrations by K. G. Campbell -- Flora & Ulysses was named a finalist for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize; chosen by Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Amazon, and Common Sense Media as a Best Book of the Year; and designated a Parents' Choice Gold Award Winner.

It's no wonder that Kate DiCamillo was selected to be the U.S. National Ambassador for Young People's Literature for 2014-2015. Of that mission, and on the power of stories, she says, "When we read together, we connect. Together, we see the world. Together, we see one another."

Born in Philadelphia, Kate DiCamillo lives in Minneapolis, where she faithfully writes two pages a day, five days a week.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

239 of 260 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Ferguson VINE VOICE on September 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Magician's Elephant is parable/allegory/fable/fairytale and modern kid lit extraordinaire. The tale is somber and atmospheric but the overall feel of the story is one of hope. The characters are quirky and magic lingers on every page. More a novella, it is a quick read of a few hours even for a young reader. I don't recommend putting it off but this is one of those books to be pulled out on a snowy night in front of the fire to be read out loud with your family.

I won't detail the events as the jacket flap and other reviewers are sure to do it but I will say that if you are a fan of DiCamillo's there is no way you should pass up this book. This will seem impossible to you (as it does to me) but her writing is getting even better and with this story I think we may be seeing the beginning of a transcendence to the creation of a storyteller easily in league with Aesop, the Brothers Grimm and Frank L. Baum. I am aware that sounds sycophantic - trust me I am not. In fact, I would really like to hate her for writing so well, as an aspiring writer myself, but there is no denying the quality of this story.

There is a very visual and cinematic quality to the writing that keeps the reader engaged. It is difficult to stop thinking about Peter, Adele, the elephant, the magician, and all the others just because the book is closed.

I sincerely hope adults will pick this book up as well - especially those who have already discovered the pleasures of good children's literature.
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130 of 142 people found the following review helpful By Robert Busko VINE VOICE on September 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
At age 60 some might say that I'm far too old to be a fan of Kate DiCamillo's The Magician's Elephant. Wouldn't that be a shame? I became a fan of DiCamillo's when I read The Tale of Despereaux and later the Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. Whatever lessons are intended for the young are not lost on those of us that are a generation or two further along in our visit on the planet.

Kate DiCamillo's stories are charming, well thought out and always provide interesting characters to carry the tale forward. Engaging is a word most applicable when discussing The Magicians Elephant. Is there anything more important for a storyteller?

Like the Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Magician's Elephant is an odyssey involving a string of characters each providing to the story in some small manner. Besides spinning an interesting tale, characterization is DiCamillo's best talent.

In the Magician's Elephant the main character, Peter, has been told that his sister Adele is dead. Wanting desperately to believe Adele isn't dead Peter wanders into the tent of a fortuneteller. Given one question to ask (he actually gets two) Peter is given to believe that his sister is still alive and he is told that an elephant will lead him to her. At this point the reader is hooked.

Will Peter find Adele? Read the book and see. Like so many of life's journeys it isn't the destination but the trip that matters.

I have a granddaughter who is five. I'm torn about reading this story to her or waiting for her to grow and let her discover these stories on her own. I think I'll opt to read The Magician's Elephant to her. That will be two gifts, one for her and one for me.

I can't recommend The Magician's Elephant more strongly.

Peace always.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By James May on November 9, 2009
Format: Hardcover
The Magician's Elephant is an enchanting tale about a young boy that makes a rather difficult decision: spend his money on bread or on a fortune teller that appeared within the town walls? The young lad opts for the latter and learns that an elephant will lead him to his lost sister. Seems odd? Peter realizes that the fortune offers hope that his sister is still alive somewhere. During a magic show, an elephant makes a rather strange appearance and now Peter believes there may be something to the fortune.

While the story does share similarities with stories long ago, it is Kate DiCamillo that really captures the imagination and delivers the story fluidly and with moments of tension and amazement. The story is rather straight forward and the surprises are kept to a minimum. The book is a quick read but still manages to develop the characters in a richly detailed depth that will capture the reader from the first page. I only gave it 4-stars because I just finished reading Mary Stewart's timeless masterpiece "The Crystal Cave" and while I enjoyed The Magician's Elephant it doesn't quite live up to the book I read prior.
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100 of 117 people found the following review helpful By The Library Lady on November 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As an adult reader, I enjoyed The Magician's Elephant, but as a piece of children's literature, I was quite dissappointed in it. While this is a relatively short book, it is dense to say the least. The themes of lonliness, truth, and forgiveness are a bit heavy for a children's book. The whole atmosphere of the book is bleak, and it is populated by characters lost in their own despair. While the last chapter does offer hope, the entire rest of the book is quite dismal. On top of this, the book is wholly without action. While there may be a few children out there who may enjoy this book, I believe the majority will not. I am a big fan of DiCamillo's other books, but in this book she has drifted too far from what children want to read about for this book to truly be considered chilren's literature.
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