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The Magician's Elephant Paperback – Illustrated, December 8, 2015
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—New York Times Book Review
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.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
Reading like a fable told long ago, with rich language that begs to be read aloud, this is a magical story about hope and love, loss and home, and of questioning the world versus accepting it as it is.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
From the unexpectedly miraculous feats of a two-bit illusionist to the transformative powers of love, forgiveness, and a good mutton stew, there is much magic afoot in this fable-like tale… The profound and deeply affecting emotions at work in the story are buoyed up by the tale’s succinct, lyrical text, gentle touches of humor, and uplifting message of redemption, hope, and the interminable power of asking ‘what if?
—Booklist (starred review)
Thoughtful readers will feel a quiet satisfaction with this almost dainty tale of impossible happenings.
DiCamillo’s allegorical novel seems to pack more mass per square inch than average. The plot is fantastical, surreal…And the prose is remarkable, reflecting influences from Kafka to the theater of the absurd to Laurel-and-Hardy humor.
—The Horn Book
The mannered prose and Tanaka's delicate, darkly hued paintings give the story a somber and old-fashioned feel. The absurdist elements—street vendors peddle chunks of the now-infamous opera house ceiling with the cry “Possess the plaster of disaster!”—leaven the overall seriousness, and there is a happy if predictable ending for the eccentric cast of anguished characters, each finding something to make them whole.
Kate DiCamillo tells a tale of ‘hope, redemption, faith, love, and believing in the impossible’ with her usual quiet elegant prose.
—Library Media Connection
Tanaka’s shadowy, evocative acrylic paintings echo the dreamy nature of the storytelling and add a surprising amount of solidity (and a particularly nice elephant).
—Bulletin of the Center of Children’s Books
With its rhythmic sentences and fairy-tale tone, this novel yields solitary pleasures but begs to be read aloud. Hearing it in a shared space can connect us, one to one, regardless of age, much like the book's closing image: a small stone carving, hands linked, of the elephant's friends.
—Washington Post Book World
Though DiCamillo's first success was with realistic fiction, she has since explored fantasy, here looking at how individuals and society take an impossible event into their narrative of the way the world is. Is it broken or fixable by those who embrace the unusual?
DiCamillo's elegant, evocative prose underpins the otherworldliness of Baltese, a place where a long-accepted truth can be shattered as easily as an elephant crashes through the opera-house ceiling.
Readers willing to venture a little deeper into the darkness will be reassured and rewarded by the singular sense of hope that nearly glows from DiCamillo's prose, and from the incandescent illustrations created by Yoko Tanaka.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
The power of DiCamillo’s writing enables the hope and determination of the characters to break through the gloom that penetrates the story...DiCamillo has again captured the loneliness and unwavering optimism that can only be found in children.
Using short yet powerful sentences and cinematic descriptions, DiCamillo creates another emotion-swelling gem in what is becoming an impressive crown of work.
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
Lyrical language and many interesting characters make this a wonderful read aloud book or one to be savored alone.
—Kansas City Star
Bringing all these characters together for a happy ending requires its own special magic, which is enhanced by DiCamillo's finely rendered Old World writing style — and the gorgeously muted pencil illustrations of Los Angeles artist Yoko Tanaka.
—Los Angeles Times
About the Author
- Grade level : 3 - 7
- Item Weight : 6.4 ounces
- Paperback : 224 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0763680885
- ISBN-13 : 978-0763680886
- Dimensions : 5.19 x 0.59 x 7.63 inches
- Publisher : Candlewick; Illustrated edition (December 8, 2015)
- Reading level : 8 - 12 years
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #11,414 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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If you are a teacher interested in using this for guided reading, I used the book with my high level readers in fourth grade. They did require some guidance in understanding the complexities and depth of the writing, but with guidance and good questioning the kids really enjoy the book.
"She lives!" - that's what Peter said when the fortuneteller had told him that his sister was not dead and that an elephant would lead him to her. This powerful belief led Peter through a spell-bounding journey where the impossible becomes possible.
A Magician conjures an elephant, which comes crashing through the ceiling of the Opera House. In an imaginary town where there were no elephants. This event was somehow connected to Adele, Peter's sister.
The author develops each character in this story showing all their emotions and imperfections. I think this author is very well in tune with people's emotions and she knows so well how to translate feelings into words. Also she describes imaginary places with such detail and emotion that it feels that you are there. The reader connects with the characters because they have dimension and depth.
I really enjoyed this book most of all because of characters seem real. It is so well written that I felt like reading more of Kate DiCamillo's books. And I did. And I loved them. "( from the kids books review blog IsabelasBookNook.com)
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.
illustrated by Yoko Tanaka
The story begins in the fictional, central European town of Baltese , "At the end of the century before the last". It is clear that there has been a war. There is a pervasive atmosphere of sorrow, want and hopelessness in the setting. Enter the orphan, Peter Augustus Duchene, a fortune teller, a magician "of failing reputation" , and an elephant.What follows is a mysterious, magical story in which hope and faith eventually triumph. The black and white illustrations are subtly evocative, and add much to the magical atmosphere of the story.
I was enchanted with this story. Had I read it as a child, this would have been a five star book for me. However, I was not a typical reader. I think The Magician's Elephant would have limited appeal for the ordinary 8 to 12 year-old. It would find favor with the bright readers who have an early appreciation of good literature. With careful guidance, it might stimulate some good discussion as a read-a-loud.
Top reviews from other countries
I'm not sure if this book is suitable for children but I will test it out in my class of 10-11 year olds and get their verdict. I have taken the advice of another reviewer and read it as a piece of theatre written in prose. This advice has helped me work through the seemingly strange turns of phrases and repetition in the book. It can be read in less than two hours and like a play, I would encourage you to read it in one full sitting to digest all that this book offers. A highly recommended story.