17 January 2010

The Magician’s Elephant

by Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka

Candlewick Press. Junior. Hardback rrp $24.95

Guest Reviewer - Jo Burnell

This lyrical tale is full of dreams, yet grounded in reality. Peter Augustus Duchene is a young orphan, living with a sick and elderly soldier. Peter longs to know what happened when his mother died in childbirth. Despite declarations that his little sister died with her mother, Peter continues to wonder.

When a fortune teller states that he must follow the elephant to find his baby sister, Peter’s world splinters. All that he thought was true is now false, or is the fortune teller the one who lies? When a magician conjures an elephant instead of a bunch of lilies in the Opera House, Peter begins to believe. Maybe his sister really is alive. It’s not every day that an elephant breaks through the roof of the Opera House.

Yoko Tanaka’s full-page illustrations, inserted at intervals in this short chapter book, add depth to characters and their plight. Large eyes and every imaginable shade of grey demonstrate heartfelt despair, while wistful smiles speak of hope that never dies.

The Magician’s Elephant is a tale of tragic realities and suffering, but it is also a story of promises and possibilities - for those who are brave enough.

‘Magic is always impossible…That is why it is magic.’ So says the one who would know: the magician.
Has everyone gone mad? Perhaps that is the case, as Peter seeks what cannot be. It seems as if anything could happen. Anything at all, when you believe.

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