Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

The Magician's Elephant

The Magician's Elephant

Fall 2009 Fiction
Ages: 8 - 13 yrs.
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Yoko Tanaka
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN: 9780763644109
Hardcover Price: $16.99
Peter always believed what his guardian, Vilna Lutz, told him-that his baby sister Adele, whom he was supposed to protect, was born dead. So Peter doesn't know what to think when a fortune-teller informs him that his sister is alive, and that he will find her by following the magician's elephant - although there are no elephants in the city of Baltese. But very soon, strange things start to happen; and the more things happen, the more Peter discovers that there are people who are just as unhappy as he is, and who need a little belief and a little compassion to set things right. First, a magician makes an elephant appear, the first ever seen in the city. Unfortunately, the magician has pulled the elephant away from her own home and family, and he makes her appear right in a lady's lap. Before Peter can be reunited with his sister, the magician must learn to reverse his magic, the lady must become reconciled to the loss of her legs (crushed when the elephant landed on them), and the elephant must find one human in the city who does not regard her merely as a curiosity. Peter doesn't need just one miracle; he needs a whole series of them. More important, he needs to convince a collection of lonely and isolated people to trust each other, so that they can solve both his problem and their own.

DiCamillo skillfully weaves together the interlocking story lines of several characters who all have lessons to learn about the power of belief. The eccentric fairy-tale characters are broadly drawn and appealing, and the soft black-and-white illustrations create an appropriately misty and faraway atmosphere. Despite the number of storylines and characters, the plot moves rapidly without being dizzying or hard to follow, and all of the characters discover their mistakes and learn the appropriate moral lessons at satisfying moments.

Naomi Lesley   ©2009 Parents' Choice
Naomi Lesley taught middle and high school English for six years. She is currently in a doctoral program at the George Washington University, focusing on American young adult literature.

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