The Magician’s Elephant
Written by Kate DiCamillo, Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka, Published by: Candlewick Press, 2009
I can hardly find words to describe how stunning this brilliant piece of art is. Of all of Kate DiCamillo’s wonderful, award-winning books, this one is my favorite.
Although only ten-years-old, Peter Augustus Duchene seems wiser than his years. He lives with his guardian, an old soldier, in a city called Baltese. This charming, old city makes one think of old-world Europe from a long time ago, Prague, Budapest, Paris.
A cold, bleak winter shrouds this city, one to put you in mind of a Dickens’ winter.
“The skies were filled with thick, lowering clouds that obscured the sun and condemned the city to a series of days that resembled nothing so much as a single, unending dusk.”
Cold, hungry and lonely, and trying hard to “be a soldier, honorable and true,” Peter has one wish in his heart. He longs to find out if his younger sister is still alive.
A fortune teller, a magician who calls an elephant out of nowhere, a city full of people longing for something, and the beauty of magic, are all sewn together to create one of the most graceful stories I’ve ever read. It makes me cry every time.
I read this book to the kids aloud, and, if possible its beauty grew. DiCamillo’s words hum like poetry that reaches in and tugs on your heart. Each word, each page, each scene, all are exquisitely drawn. Yoko Tanaka’s gorgeous illustrations add another layer to that mystical old-world feeling.
This book is about being lost and found, longing and family, desire and hunger, darkness and light, grief and love, memories, despair and hope.
And most of all magic. Perhaps the magic of hope, or the hope of magic, that everything is somehow connected with a golden thread. The Magician’s Elephant overflows with magic, and not just the impossible, but the unique magic that lives in all of us, every person, every star. We are all of us stars, shining brightly.
For me the true meaning of this story can be found near the very end with the elephant.
“Sometimes, though, when she was walking through the tall grass or standing in the shade of the trees, Peter’s face would flash in front of her, and she was struck with a peculiar feeling of having been well and truly seen, of having at last been found, saved.”
We all want to be “well and truly seen” don’t we?
If you’re looking for a special book, find somewhere cozy to read, grab a copy of The Magician’s Elephant, and let Kate DiCamillo wave her magic wand over you. And here at Wild for Books, we feel this book is most magical when read aloud with someone you love.