The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo is another fabulous juvenile literature book. DiCamillo's writing is beautiful and her stories have depth and beauty in them, but they have the simplicity for children at the same time. She is an excellent author. I highly suggest everything she has written. The Mercy Watson series are great for early/beginning readers in 1st or Kindergarten.
I would give The Magician's Elephant 4 out of 5 stars. It is a fabulous book with a beautiful story, but it doesn't quite grab me like I would hope and wish for. There were times I was just going along in the story rather than anxiously turning the pages to find out what was going to happen next. As far as the book is concerned, the pictures throughout are beautiful. If you are interested in the audio book I would say it is okay. The reader isn't great, but she wasn't so bad where I couldn't listen to it anymore.
The Magician's Elephant is set in Baltese, a made up town but it all sounds very French to me. This book is a clean book that could work for boys and girls 2nd grade and up. With a boy as the main character that means this book would work for both boys and girls. Girls will read books with boys as the main character, but boys do not like to read books with girls as the main character. I really think an upper elementary student could enjoy this book just as much as a 2nd of 3rd grader. Some of the names might be difficult for a 2nd grader so a parent would be needed to read along with him or her, but the story will make sense and be enjoyed by the young and the old. You know it is a good book when it can truly reach a vast audience.
Peter, the main character, is a boy that lost both of his parents when he was young. His dad was killed in war, and his mom was killed giving birth to his sister. She went into early labor with his sister b/c she was so distraught over hearing that her husband died. I would imagine hearing such news would be difficult and would cause a lot of stress emotionally on your body. So sad. Peter was left to live with a man that was friends with his dad, but his sister, who he has only a couple of memories of her, is somewhere else. Peter wants to find her, and the odd advice of fortuneteller helps him.
If I were to think of themes found in this book I would say love, family, persistence, hope, faith, and the possibility in the impossible. There was a moment in the story where Peter is hugged and he begins to cry b/c he hasn't been held in a loving way for much too long. Peter missed being loved and hugged and he needed to be loved and hugged. I was really touched by this part in the book b/c we all need to be loved and physically touched by loved ones. We all crave love; we all need to be loved. I was so sad for Peter and that he hadn't felt loved for so long. It truly made me want to hug and love my kids that much more. Love is so very powerful.
Amazon had the following book description:
"In a highly awaited new novel, Kate DiCamillo conjures a haunting fable about trusting the unexpected — and making the extraordinary come true.
What if? Why not? Could it be?
When a fortuneteller's tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her? The fortuneteller's mysterious answer (an elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true. With atmospheric illustrations by fine artist Yoko Tanaka, here is a dreamlike and captivating tale that could only be narrated by Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo. In this timeless fable, she evokes the largest of themes — hope and belonging, desire and compassion — with the lightness of a magician’s touch."
I think Kate DiCamillo is a fabulous author. I truly love all of her books, and I think this is another great book. Students will love reading this book independently. I think teachers could find great value in using The Magician's Elephant for use in literature circles or as a class read aloud. A teacher could teach many lessons regarding the themes as well as using examples from this book for 6 Traits of writing as well as what a good writer looks like.
The impossible is possible, and this book reminds us of that. What better lesson to learn and believe and hope for than that?