The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka (Canada) - (US)
Finished: July 18, 2011
First Published: Sep. 8, 2009
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: children, magical realism, fantasy
At the end of the century before last, in the market square of the city of Baltese, there stood a boy with a hat on his head and a coin in his hand.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Candlewick Press.
Reason for Reading: I enjoy the author's books
This is an original fairy tale that illustrates that we never know what the future will hold, that dreams should never be given up, and that fate (God's will) eventually does come to pass in it's own time. It is a strange tale though of an elephant crashing through the roof of the opera house as a magician performs a trick. The elephant becomes the centre of the city's attention and becomes orphan Peter's focus as a fortuneteller once told him that an elephant would lead him to his sister, whom he thought was dead.
This is a dark tale. The atmosphere is dark, gloomy; the weather is grey and the feelings are of sadness, hopelessness. Topics brought forward are hunger, childlessness, blindness, beggars, cripples, seeking attention and homesickness. But there is always hope, the elephant is a symbol of this, she is a saviour for many though she must suffer silently before she is to leave them. Though the book is dark and sad it has a happy, feel-good ending.
I must admit to having a hard time getting into the book though. It starts off so strange, as it is a strange story, and I really wondered just what it was all about and whether children would actually "get" it. But the further I read on the more I became attached to the characters and became invested in the plot. For children, I think those that will most appreciate the book are the ones who have grown up on a steady diet of fairy tales, the real unaltered original tales, and are used to this type of dark fairy tale.