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The Magician's Elephant

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3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  12,438 ratings  ·  2,292 reviews
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
...more
Hardcover, 201 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by Candlewick Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca SteadThe Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline KellyWhere the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace LinThe Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Newbery 2010
5th out of 107 books — 534 voters
Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsCity of Glass by Cassandra ClareFire by Kristin CashoreWintergirls by Laurie Halse AndersonIf I Stay by Gayle Forman
2009 MUST READS: Children's and YA
35th out of 258 books — 777 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Wendy
Part of me wants to say I loved this book, that it verges on Trumpet of the Swan or Jane Langton territory, and part of me is afraid I've been sucked into the next Jonathan Livingston Seagull or Kahlil Gibran. (I finally put my finger on what this book reminds me of: The Polar Express. And that's perfect, because I can never decide about that book, either.)

I think the prose is very lovely, and I don't always go for lovely prose, but this is funny, too. There's humor and pathos both in the contin
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Stacey
A charming story of love and hope, The Magician's Elephant was a delightful surprise. I can't recall who recommended it to me, but if I could remember, I'd thank them. I loved the writing, the descriptions, and most of all, the story of a little boy and love. Absolutely wonderful, and just begging to be read aloud to the children in your life.

Now I'm off to read all of DiCamillo's books, to see if I adore them just as much. I haven't read this much children's lit since I was in elementary schoo
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Tamara
This book was like eating crème brûlée, with the satisfaction of breaking the burnt sugar spine to eat the warm and sweet center. It would be perfect to have it read aloud while you fall asleep to falling snow.

Favorite Quote:

Magic is always impossible...It begins with the impossible and ends with the impossible and is impossible in between. That is why it is magic.

It is a bad thing to have love and nowhere to put it.

He had been so lonely, so desperately, hopelessly lonely for so long. He mig
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Linden
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Renee Bush
Wow, Reader, if you make up your mind about what to read/purchase/borrow at your library from these reviews, then pay attention to this one! :-)

I keep wondering, with each new book, Can Kate DiCamillo really do it again? Can she possibly make the magic again? And the answer is always a resounding YES.

I do not recall the last time I actually wept while reading a book, but I not only did while reading this one, I even know the page number that brought it about--but you have to weep on your own t
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Jess
Oh boy, I wanted to like this one. I adored The Tale of Despereaux Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup and a Spool of Thread, I enjoyed Because of Winn-Dixie, I was fascinated with The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (and loved the illustrations), but this left me a little cold. I've been trying to put my finger on it, since this is on this year's OLA Mock Newbery list and I'll have to back up my opinion. I didn't feel that it went deep enough - it stayed on the surface of a po ...more
Diane
The Magician's Elephant is a wonderful whimsical story which includes some fabulous black and white illustrations, by Yoko Tanaka. The illustrations add to the beauty of this story which takes place some 200 years ago.

Peter Augustus Duchene is a ten year old orphan. When his guardian sends him out with one coin to purchase some food in the Baltese market square, he sees a fortune teller's tent, and has something more pressing than food on his mind. Peter was told that his sister was dead, and th
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Cassi aka Snow White Haggard
4.5 stars
Sometimes I miss the sense of childlike wonder that kids have. Last night one of my little cousins was making up a tall-tell about his mother making him pay rent. The fiction just flew from his lips naturally. It's like the realm of make-believe lives right below the surface and kids can jump in anytime without any effort.

Maybe that's why I keep falling for sweet innocent books that remind me of fairytales. Maybe I'm trying to recapture something I've lost along the path to adulthood.
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Eva Mitnick
In an allegorical novella reminiscent of an Eastern European fairy tale, young Peter is told by a fortune teller that an elephant will lead him to his long-lostsister. As Peter hadn’t even been certain that his sister was alive, this is excellent news, especially considering his grim life as a sort of apprentice to his guardian, an unbalanced old soldier who has cared for Peter since his parents died.

The only catch is that thre is no elephant in the town of Baltese – until, that is, a magician c
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Monica Edinger
I'm still mulling this one over. There is magic, but more in the magical realism vein of Tiger Rising than in the fairy tale vein of Despereaux. Someone elsewhere here wrote that it had a bit of the feeling of Rumer Godden which made me recall how much I loved that author's work when young. It also made me think of a very favorite book of mine --- Hoban's The Mouse and his Child --- that is, this one too involves the making of an unconventional family group by the end. There is some gorgeous ima ...more
Luann
Mar 11, 2015 Luann rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Luann by: Carter Hasegawa
This read almost like an allegory. It is a beautiful story of an elephant, magic, love, light, dreams, snow, and believing that the impossible can happen. I think this would be a beautiful book to read aloud. While reading, I kept finding favorite quotes. Here are three of them:

"Magic is always impossible," said the magician. "It begins with the impossible and ends with the impossible and is impossible in-between. That is why it is magic."

He might very well spend the rest of his life in prison,
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Richard
A haunting book which would be of interest to adults as well as young people. For some reason, the story made me think of Victor Hugo and his magnum opus, Les Miserables. There is a man whose punishment outweighs the wrong he has done. There are forlorn beggars, wandering children, and orphans in convents. All this makes for plenty of pathos, but there are also lots of humorous touches too. The illustrations add to the enchantment of the narrative.
Nikoleta
Ένα μαγευτικό βιβλίο με μία απο τις πιο παραμυθένιες αφηγήσεις που έχω διαβάσει. Ένα βιβλίο που προσπαθεί να πείσει οτι η μαγεία "αρχίζει με κάτι που δε γίνεται και τελείωνει με κάτι που δε γίνεται. Γι'αυτό είναι μαγεία" αλλα τελικά γίνεται, χωρίς δυσκολία, απλώς ελπίζεις, θυμάσαι χαμένες εικόνες, χαμένες γευσεις και πράττεις! Νοσταλγικό, αισιόδοξο, πολύ ώριμο και όπως ξαναείπα μαγευτικό! Τι άλλο θα μπορούσα να ζητήσω απο αυτό το μικρό διαμαντάκι;

"Δες" ήθελε να πει σε κάποιον που θ'αγαπούσε- και
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Yzobelle
Mar 10, 2012 Yzobelle rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who need to take a break from the bleak realities of life
I loved this book ... everything about it! The story line, the words, the dialogues, the illustrations, even the paper of this edition! It was so worth the high cost I got it for. I don't regret it.

Truly, an elephant is a faithful friend, and matriarchal by nature too. Everything in this book is magical -- and I bet only readers with childlike eyes and disposition would believe that magic is possible, even if everything in it is actually impossible.

"Magic is always impossible," said the magici
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Beth
As a fan of Despereaux and Edward Tulane, I was anxious to read Kate DiCamillo's latest children's novel. What a disappointment! The Magician's Elephant shares the dreamy, fairy-tale tone of the previous two books, but without the compelling characters or deep emotion. Perhaps the dialogue is not meant to sound realistic, but it tries one's patience to encounter so many exchanges that sound like this (page 135):

"You must come inside. That is the thing which you must immediately do. You must come
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Kathy
A fable? An allegory? A reminder that the unlikeliest things can happen? This is mannered and old-fashioned not unlike the Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane . I, too, was reminded of Hoban's The Mouse and His Child . But in this one, I don't see character development - just the journey. There is some anti-war sentiment and the old soldier is both mildly demented and verging on the abusive since the child has too little to eat and spends much of his day marching in place. He does not want to ...more
evelyn
i was so excited for this book. kate dicamillo is probably my favorite author writing right now. after my mother and boyfriends, kate dicamillo is probably the person who can most easily make me cry. if you don't bawl like a baby when winn dixie goes missing you probably have no soul. that said, this book was terribly disappointing. it just tried too hard. dicamillo can write a hauntingly brilliant and touching story about a little girl and her dog. she can write a modern fairy tale like no one ...more
Andy
Nov 17, 2009 Andy rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2-star
Sparse and efficient text create an atmospheric and magical fairy tale of sorts. Set in a gloomy and grey "other-worldly" european town, DiCamillo brings life to a community of characters. The orphan boy Peter, who is being raised by an unstable soldier, takes center stage. His persistent "what if's" send him to a fortuneteller who reveals that his sister is indeed alive. There is also a magician who longs to perform a great feat of magic, but accidentally brings an elephant crashing through the ...more
Nely
Oct 16, 2009 Nely rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
Peter Augustus Duchene is a ten year old orphan who is undergoing training to become a soldier like his father before him. When his guardian, sends him out to buy some fish and bread at the Baltese market square, he sees a fortune teller tent and decides that answers to his questions are far more important than eating stale bread. Instead he pays the fortune teller to answer a most pressing question... is his sister alive, and if so, how can he find her. See Peter was told that his sister died a ...more
Jeni
Well...I don't mean to be a book snob but....I just don't get this fascination with Kate DiCamillo. I mean, I get that her books are good, entertaining, appropriate, for the most part, for kids but I will stick my literary neck out and say that her writing is muddled and pretentious. Years ago I read The Tale of Despereaux to my class and I know that we were all like What?? I mean, it was cute...after you wade through all the silly, nonsensical writing. I read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tu ...more
Robin
I did like this kooky story about a brother being raised by a delusional ex-soldier and a sister being raised by nuns just a few blocks away, and their mysterious link via a conjured elephant. The illustrations by Tanaka are perfectly melancholy and vague.

That said, I don't know if the story has wide appeal. It's wordy. And, though the language has some funny bits, at times DiCamillo goes over the edge into preciousness, which grates on me. Maybe this'll be one of those kids' books that grown-u
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Heather
Kate DiCamillo writes the most enchanting stories! This is the third book of hers I’ve read, and once again she has managed to completely capture my heart. I feel spellbound when I’m reading her books. They are simply magical. And I love that there is always a wonderfully positive message nestled into the story. Warms the heart and gives you something to take away from it, to think about, and even discuss with the kids, if you happen to be reading together with them. Such an amazing talent, Kate ...more
Penny
Oh-so-close to 4-stars!

This is one of those books that I like the more I think about it. The Magician's Elephant is told like an Old World fable. There is magic (duh, the title has the word "Magician" in it) and an otherworldliness sensibility that permeates this book. Yoko Tanaka's lovely illustrations complement and enhance that atmosphere.

While there are tragic elements in this story, by the end I was much more hopeful and light of heart than I was after reading some other books by this autho
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Steve
Reading this, I was reminded of the musical term bagatelle (a light, mellow piece of music, short, and unpretentious). A children's book? Indeed, and a splendid specimen. But also an artful, whimsical, heart-warming escape for adults willing to welcome a little magic into their lives (and hearts)....

Surely, one of the joys of parenting is being exposed to the body of increasingly diverse and, frankly, high quality literature created for little people (and simultaneously serving a demanding and d
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Shelley
Kate DiCamillo The Magician's Elephant illus. Yoko Tanaka
201 pp. Candlewick Press 09/09 ISBN 978-0-7636-4410-9 $16.99
(Intermediate)

Newbery-winning author Kate DiCamillo writes: "I wanted, I needed, I longed to tell a story of love and magic" (bookflap). In this book, DiCamillo succeeds in writing a moving tale of a 10-year-old orphan named Peter and his quest to find his long-lost sister Adele despite being told that she is dead. After fortuneteller tells Peter that he must follow the elephant t
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Kym
What a lucky find!

I was looking for a transitional genre for my 7 year old son and I...I was tired of reading the same short stories and Berenstain Bears Books (don't get me wrong they are lovely books, but one can only take so much!)

I stumbled upon the Magician's Elephant and purchased it for my Kindle Fire based on the cover art and brief description.

How lovely to find such a rich, soulful, thoughtful, well written story intended for 9-12 year olds. No, I don't think that my son would have mad
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Alz
This tale does have a certain charm to it, teaching a lesson of love and hope and togetherness and finding that the impossible is not so impossible after all. The prose is sparse and occasionally witty or lovely, but because of the sparseness and the multitude of story threads, the story is both slow and feels a little too long.

I appreciate the way that a bunch of little stories about various characters eventually winds together in the end, but since not an equal amount of time is devoted to eac
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Meredith

This is an almost book. It is almost a great story, but somehow the elements just didn't together. At times the fairy tale aspect becomes transparent and reveals the glaring morality tale underneath. Details intended to give enough reality to make the story plausible instead raise questions that illuminate its implausibility. The only well developed character is the elephant while all the human characters remain flat.

The entire plot hinges on this idea: "And everyone, each person, had hopes and
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Fredrik
Bagaimana kalau?
Kenapa tidak?
Mungkinkah?

Pertanyaan-pertanyaan itu merupakan pengandaian.
Tentang apa-apa yang mungkin saja terjadi.
Atau tidak terjadi.
Atau terjadi.

Segalanya bergantung pada proses pencapaian yang kita lakukan.
Namun terlebih lagi, bergantung pada apakah kita berani berharap.
Akan sesuatu yang seolah-olah tidak mungkin terlaksana.
Tetapi mungkin saja.
Atau barangkali... tidak mungkin.

Sejauh mana kita berani mempercayainya?

Peter, seorang bocah kurus kering yatim piatu, dikisahkan selama
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Kateri Ewing
The first book I read by Kate DiCamillo was "Because of Winn-Dixie," and I've been a faithful follower ever since. Yes, her books are published in the young adult genre, but her stories are so rich with human emotion and magical characters that it doesn't matter how old you are; these books can be taken to heart by a person of any age.

Her language has a lyrical feel, and is always always quiet. She seems to be able to gently tap a reader on the shoulder and say, "Here, follow me. I've got someth
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Religious Symbolism? 6 58 Mar 28, 2014 04:46AM  
Discussion 11 66 Jan 16, 2013 10:27PM  
Read by Theme: The Magician's Elephant 4 23 Jul 20, 2012 01:20PM  
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Kate DiCamillo, the newly named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2014–2015, says about stories, “When we read together, we connect. Together, we see the world. Together, we see one another.” Born in Philadelphia, the author lives in Minneapolis, where she faithfully writes two pages a day, five days a week.

Kate DiCamillo's own journey is something of a dream come true. After
...more
More about Kate DiCamillo...
Because of Winn-Dixie The Tale of Despereaux The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures The Tiger Rising

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“It is important that you say what you mean to say. Time is too short. You must speak the words that matter.” 126 likes
“It is a bad thing to have love and nowhere to put it.” 104 likes
More quotes…