The Magician’s Elephant

The Magician’s Elephant

Written by Kate DiCamillo, Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka, Published by: Candlewick Press, 2009

 

This book!!!!!

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.

Guest Post by Zoe Henry

Our friend, Zoe, age 9, from Bainbridge Island, Washington is here to write a guest post for Wild for Books on Raina Telgemeier’s awesome graphic novel, Ghosts.

First we want to tell you how crazy we are about Zoe (and her super parents, Shannin and Jason!)

Zoe at the Pumpkin Patch

Zoe was born 9 years ago with CDH (Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia) at Legacy Emanual Hospital in Portland, Oregon where doctors performed their medical mojo and saved her life.

Attached to a heart and lung bypass for the first two weeks of her life, Superhero Zoe has been smashing obstacles ever since. Surgeries, pneumonia, life flights, g-tubes, central lines, expensive medicines to keep her alive. No matter what this kid faces, she puts on her superhero cape and soars through life with passion, humor, intelligence, kindness and so much compassion!

Because Zoe’s lungs were unable to grow correctly she now has pulmonary hypertension, and boy are we hoping for a cure someday soon!!! (Find out how to donate to the Pulmonary Hypertension Foundation and other great resources at the end of the post!)

Lily and Zoe have been friends since they were babies and we miss her like crazy! And Lily loves Raina Telgemeier’s books too, so when we found out Zoe picked Ghosts for her fist ever book report, we invited her to share her review with Wild for Books. The character, Maya, has cystic fibrosis, and while it’s not the same as pulmonary hypertension, Zoe definitely can relate to a child who has trouble breathing.

Ghosts

By Raina Telgemeier

Review by Zoe Henry, Age 9

Maya and her sister Cat moved to a new town because Maya got sick. They met a boy named Carlos who does ghost walks. Then Maya got sick again from the ghosts taking her air. Then it was Halloween and Day of the Dead. They met the ghost of a little boy. They found out the ghosts are their ancestors’ family.

I like Ghosts because it’s about a girl who needs oxygen but is still strong and determined, and about Day of the Dead and Halloween night.

 

From Zoe’s mom, Shannin

She picked the book Ghosts because she loves that it is about a girl who has bad lungs and needs oxygen. We spent the last few weeks reading through the book together talking about how it feels to be sick, what traditions are, and how family is still with us even after they die, and different customs in different cultures. Heavy topics for a 9-year-old.

She then wrote this report by herself, we baked some Dia de los Muertos marigold and skull cupcakes and she’s bringing an oxygen canula to school to show her class after she recites her report. So freaking proud of this kid and her determination!

I love that Maya is a kid who isn’t scared. She looks for adventure and faces things with courage even when she doesn’t feel well. She’s a little girl having fun!

Dia de los Muertos Cupcakes

 

From Sara at Wild for Books

This graphic novel is such an enjoyable read, and the gorgeous pictures speak words of their own and draw you right into the scene. But it’s so much more than that. There are many heavy topics in this book, and Raina writes about them with such tenderness and compassion and insight. Cystic fibrosis, moving away to a new place and leaving all your friends behind, how siblings deal when they have a sick brother or sister, exploring different cultures, and ultimately, courage.

Currently there are no cures for cystic fibrosis or pulmonary hypertension. Both diseases have great foundations working towards finding cures if you’re interested in donating. I’ll share the links below as well as links to Make-A-Wish and Tiny Superheroes, two additional outstanding organizations for kids who are sick or have special needs.

Thanks for writing for us Zoe!! We miss you and love you!!

Here are 4 great places to donate if you’re interested!

Pulmonary Hypertension Association

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Make-A-Wish Foundation

Tiny Superheroes