232 of 253 people found the following review helpful
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.
124 of 136 people found the following review helpful
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.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2009
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.
97 of 114 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2009
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.
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
If you went to a bookstore and the author and artist were present and signed the book, you'd have an autographed book.
If you buy the "Special Signed Edition," you get the same thing: the trade first edition with signatures. (The adhesive bar code on the back covers up that of the trade edition.)
For the extra cost ($50 retail), you'd think the publisher would have added a limitation sheet with the signatures, at a minimum, or perhaps a slipcase to protect the book, or a different binding: but no, this is simply the regular edition plus the signatures of both Kate DiCamillo and Yoko Tanana, with a rubber-stamped elephant drawing.
As a long-time publisher myself that has issued limited, signed editions--bound in leather, traycased, numbered and signed--I am frankly surprised that there's no text in the advertising copy to make this important distinction clear.
So let me be clear: You are getting an autographed trade edition. Nothing more, nothing less.
Beyond that, there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING "Special" about this edition. Nada. Zilch. Nothing.
The trade edition retails for $16.99 (Amazon sells it for $9.93).
The question you must ask yourself: Is the difference in price worth it for two autographs? Only YOU can answer THAT question.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
I very much liked this book just as I very much like all of Kate DiCamillo's works for older children. It has depth and feeling and a dark mood that calls for internal reflection. (Similar to what one finds in Edward Tulane, and to an extent the Tale of Desperaux.)
The story starts out with Peter, an orphan who is living with a military man of dubious sanity and health. But it quickly unfolds to be more complex, becoming in the end a book that is not just about one character, but many.
There is Peter the primary actor, and his tormented mentor, Vilna Lutz. But also the police officer, Leo Matienne, and the stone mason, the grand dames, the nun and so many more, There is Adele a young orphan girl, and even the elephant, who miraculous crashes down in the opera house during a magic show. A show that should have been of no importance but which altered the lives of a city.
There being so many people is not insignificant. Because this book is not about individuals, but about life. About relationships and how they define us, and how we define them. Essentially so many aspects of love and hope were exposed that I was reminded of a Zen koan. There is just so much to think about, so much to contemplate.
So ultimately, in my opinion, The Magician's Elephant is not a book for children. (I didn't even attempt to read it to my 7 and 9 year olds) Or at least not young children. It is, however, a wonderful thought provoking book for adults and for teens who are ready to examine life.
mom and reviewer at BooksforKids-reviews
39 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on September 8, 2009
The bizarre - an elephant magically falling through the roof of a packed opera house - meshes with the dreamingly poignent - an orphaned brother and sister's wish to be reunited -- in a tenderhearted tale that celebrates the connections between us and the courage it takes to follow dreams. Newbery Medal-winning author Kate DiCamillo succeeds once again with "The Magician's Elephant," a story about a magician who one winter evening brings an elephant crashing down onto his audience. On that same evening in the same city, a fortune teller informs a boy that an elephant will appear and lead him to his presumed-dead sister. A begger and his a blind dog, a noblewoman crippled by the falling elephant, a nun who oversees the local orphanage, a policeman and his wife who have no children of their own, a crippled former stonecutter hired to scoop elephant poop, the elephant, the boy Peter and his sister Adele form an ensemble cast who confront life's deepest questions in their nighttime dreams, and who, each in their own small way, contribute to the tale's simple yet miraculous conclusion. Each mired in their own difficult circumstances, the characters don't have much reason to believe that life will change. But one by one they allow themselves to ask "what if?" What if they took a chance, what if they believed that change was possible, what if they were capable of making it happen? When that mindset takes hold, amazing things occur. The black and white illustrations bolster the story's wintry feel, as characters wish for snow as they suffer through gray, laden skies and bitter cold. The perfect illustrative accompaniment to a story about daring to move after long standing still. The Magician's Elephant
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Wow, Reader, if you make up your mind about what to read/purchase/borrow at your library from these reviews, then pay attention to this one! :-)
I keep wondering, with each new book, Can Kate DiCamillo really do it again? Can she possibly make the magic again? And the answer is always a resounding YES.
I do not recall the last time I actually wept while reading a book, but I not only did while reading this one, I even know the page number that brought it about--but you have to weep on your own timetable, not someone else's! :-)
What amazes me is how the author actually includes, among all the magic, all the wonder, the dreams, the hopes, the heartaches, she actually works in there the practical means for dealing with those "dark nights of the soul," which, dreadfully, each young reader will probably face some day. When the hero is at his lowest ebb, she has him look his terrible loss head-on, dead-on; and he faces it, and grows stronger. Also, nearing that dreadful point, he is urged to eat. Such a simple lesson, and yet each child needs to know: if you can get your basic needs met, you can face what must be faced. When in despair, you must take care of the body, in order to take care of the soul.
Best of all, she asks the reader these questions, with this story: Can dreams come true? Can the impossible ever really happen? Can happy endings not only happen, but happen with such deep meaning?
And she manages all of that without soppiness, syrup, goo, or becoming maudlin.
She must believe, as I believe, as children long to believe, that good happens. Prayers are answered. Hope does indeed beat eternal, and for good reason.
I LOVE it. I absolutely love it. Ms. DiCamillo, I salute you.
And P.S. I love Iddo.
Oh, wait! Ms. Tanaka! Your illustrations help make the magic, too. The elephant's eyes! Incredible. All your illustrations, actually, are incredible.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2009
A beautiful piece of children's literature... but one that adults will appreciate more than kids.
My kids (ages 7 and 10, boy and girl) were underwhelmed. They were expecting the adventure and humor of The Tale of Desperaux, or the adventure of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. This was too quiet and thoughtful for them. They did want to hear more every night, but concluded that it was not a favorite.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2010
Kate DiCamillo's character's were very interesting and became more and more real as the story progressed. There are redeeming qualities in this story with the resolution of the main characters' issues. It is a shame that this book is not as interesting and entrancing as DiCamillo's other two favorites (mine was the The Tale of Despereaux).
I am a retired professor and read the books I intend to give to my favorite young ones. I found this book to be dark, dismal, and really lacking any joyfulness. It really dragged in places and, even I had a hard time staying interested in the story.
THE STORY LINE INVOLVING THE ELEPHANT IS VERY SAD, AND THUS, NOT APPROPRIATE FOR IMPRESSIONABLE CHILDREN! I WILL NOT PASS IT ON!!!