The Magician’s Elephant
Kate DiCamillo, Author
Yoko Tanaka, Illustrator
Candlewick, Fiction, 2009
Suitable for ages: 8-12
Themes: Fable, Orphan, Elephant, Magician, Fantasy
Kate DiCamillo’s The Magician’s Elephant has been made into a movie. It aired on Netlfix on March 17. Since I am a fan of the author’s work, I couldn’t resist reviewing an advanced reading copy from Candlewick and sharing the new cover for her 2009 fable — especially since I hadn’t read this special story.
When oprhan Peter Augustus Duchene goes to the market to buy a fish and some bread, he sees a fortune teller’s tent set up in the middle of Baltese. Peter has one pressing question he wants to ask the fortuneteller — is his sister still alive and how can he find her? The fortune teller answers in a mysterious way. “You must follow the elephant,” said the fortune teller. “And she will lead you there.” What elephant? There are no elephants in Baltese. Her response sets off a chain of events so remarkable that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true.
The Magician’s Elephant is a charming story of hope, love, unwavering persistence and belonging. Peter is such a lovable character. The storytelling is beautiful and lyrical. Readers will float through the pages with her vivid imagery that is often times both gloomy and silly. Readers will love the well-developed and distinctive characters, each with a story to tell — and all of their stories come together at the end. Yoko Tanaka’s illustrations truly set the mood for the story, eliciting emotions at the perfect moments.
I recommend you read the book first, because you will enjoy seeing how screenplay writers adapt an author’s story into a movie. If the book is truly loved, it is a risk for the writers. That being said, I believe the movie is enchanting and less somber than the book. The plot remains in tact, but the tale has been significantly augmented for the movie. There is a lot more silly action to the story, and the film is bright and magical, giving it a more hopeful feel. Readers will have fun comparing the original book to the movie. There are so many ways to use this book in the classroom. Kate DiCamillo has a “Questions to Consider” at the end of the book — perfect for lively discussions. Visit her at https://www.katedicamillostoriesconnectus.com/
Kate DiCamillo’s writing journey has been a truly remarkable one. She grew up in Florida and moved to Minnesota in her twenties, when homesickness and a bitter winter led her to write Because of Winn-Dixie — her first published novel, which became a runaway bestseller and snapped up a Newbery Honor. The Tiger Rising, her second novel, was also set in Florida and went on to become a National Book Award finalist. She is the best-selling author of The Beatryce Prophecy,” Flora & Ulyssis, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, The Tale of Despereaux,the Raymie Nightingale series, and the Mercy Watson and Tales from Deckwoo Drive series, while continuing to enjoy great success, winning two Newbery Medals and being named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature. She now has over 40 million books in print worldwide.