Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

Everyone who has read even one month's worth of posts (that's, ahem, four) knows that it's no secret that I'm a huge Kate DiCamillo fan. Her youth fiction is outstanding and although I wouldn't put The Magician's Elephant at the top (that's reserved for Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Despereaux), it's another great story with a raggle-taggle bunch of characters you grow to know and love.

The main character, Peter, is a young orphan who decides to spend the day's food allowance on a fortune-teller's fee rather than the normal old bread and small fish, and hears an earful before he leaves the tent. The fortune-teller tells Peter that an elephant will take him to his long-lost sister (who has always been dead, according to his caretaker, Vilna Lutz). This bizarre prophecy seems to appear likely when an elephant comes crashing through a rooftop that very night, unbeknownst to Peter.

The sorrowful and gray tale is a story about community, family, and the threads of hope that are braided together in unlikely ways. DiCamillo's writing is fantastic as usual, and her characters come alive with the descriptions and back-story she gives them. 

I would suggest this book be read to or read by those above the age of 8, for a few reasons. One, a part of the story deals with war, deep grief and trauma, and many deaths. It's one of her heavier books, though there is a redemptive theme. I also believe it to be just a bit harder for younger ones to follow based on the metaphors and descriptions of people and their personalities. My daughter had a harder time following the actual plot of the book, while my son was delighted by the details. I think my 6 year old got the jist, but she missed out on a lot simply trying to keep up with the story developments. 

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