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The Magician's Elephant

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  22,120 ratings  ·  3,265 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
Hardcover, 201 pages
Published September 8th 2009 by Candlewick Press
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The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo is a mysterious and magical story about a boy named Peter who has been orphaned, and the unlikely appearance of an elephant who helps him find his way.

The story takes place in the city of Baltese, which is filled with people of different classes. It's a cold and very dark winter with minimal sunshine. Peter currently lives with his guardian--a soldier named Vilna who fought in war alongside Peter's father. Sadly, Peter's mother died just after the birth
Sep 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 30, 2016 rated it liked it
good story before go to sleep
Aug 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is my first Kate DiCamillo book and it has made a deep impression on me. The best "children's books" work on an adult level as well. This one is the best I have read in a long while. She writes beautifully, and her characters have more depth than you would expect. The plot falls into place as a small boy squanders his guardian's money on getting his fortune read. When he hears that a elephant will take him to his sister (who he has been told died at birth) he struggles with what is true and ...more
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
Nov 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Linda Hart
Apr 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Every fantasy book poses the following questions. Why not? What if? Could it be? and in this book every character is asking the same questions. Kate DiCamillo has the ability to take you on a great adventure where you're not paying attention to anything except what's in the book and again in this book is she does her own special brand of magic. Full of surprises and charming characters, this is a fun story about believing in the impossible and watching it happen right before your eyes. a spellbi ...more
Nov 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, own, middle-grade
An odd little fairy tale about, yes, an elephant. But also love, and truth, and hope. A boy and his sister. A policeman. A countess. A magician. And others who are affected by the elephant's sudden, magical appearance.

Beautifully illustrated in a way that added even more to the hushed quality of the book.
Michael Finocchiaro
Nov 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Kate DiCamillo's Magician's Elephant, is a beautiful story about wonder and magic and dreams coming true. It is a fun read. I loved reading this with my daughter. ...more
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
I read this with novel with my grade 6 class. I really enjoyed the writing and the plot. Most of my students loved the book. Some said it was their favourite book so far this year others said it was good but we read ones in class this year they liked more. It has the most wide range of ratings my class has given so far this year.
Jan 03, 2010 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rosanne Hawke
Dec 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: children
I love Kate DiCamillo's writing and books. So The Magician's Elephant was a treat for me. It has everything that I like in a children's book which is also suitable for adults: mystery, wonder, hope, amazement, imagination, beautiful writing and an enriching story. ...more
Henry Martin
In a typical DiCamillo style, The Magician's Elephant is a complex story disguised as a children's tale, although, compared to Edward Tulane or Tiger Rising, this one is more subtle in its message.

Take a sleepy city (which could be anywhere) with its upper, middle, and poor classes, and make the story come alive. In this case, it all begins with a little orphan boy being raised by a feverish soldier who fought alongside the boy's father. The little boy is being raised to be a soldier, to live o
Renee Wallace
Sep 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 24, 2009 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 30, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars ⭐️
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.
I loved this short children's book written like an adult story. The characters and the adventure was darling and suspenseful. ...more
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
this may be my new favorite kids book!
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
There was magic in this book, but not the usual kind of magic.
It's about the feelings magic: love, hope, compassion, longing, regret, forgiveness and belief.
Oct 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
May 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
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,
DiCamillo is so gifted in making the extraordinary elements of who we are and, perhaps, why we are in such a simple way. Her stories, many for younger children, deal with themes of loss and love in ways that open themselves up to the deepest reflections and I love her for it.
When a young boy spends money that is not his in order to have his fortune told, a series of events unfolds in which an elephant is conjured from the air itself. The boy is told that the elephant will lead him to something
Jun 13, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: readin2009
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
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.
Dec 30, 2020 rated it liked it
An incredibly heartwarming story about hope, love, magic, and family!
Kate DiCamillo is an author I've grown up reading from, and her books are always wise and wonderful!
Lisbeth Sundman
Feb 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Ok, a book for children, but what a wonderful book! What a story!
May 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: parents reading bedtime stories to their children
Shelves: fable
A light, quick read, and might be a suitable bedtime story for more mature children. Reading this as an adult (well I'm not sure I'm one yet but my ID says so in the legal sense), however, doesn't bring much to the table other than light whimsical entertainment value. I like how the illustrations match and complement the story beautifully.

The story tells of Peter, a boy who lives with Vilna-Lutz, an ex-war veteran who took him in after he's orphaned. Peter's days were pretty spartan until one da
Eva Mitnick
Jul 05, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: children
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
Mar 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  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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The Bee's Bookshelf: Discussion and Favorite Words 10 16 Dec 04, 2017 05:53AM  
Open-ended and philosophical questions on the book 1 9 Aug 02, 2016 12:26PM  
Madison Mega-Mara...: #82 The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo 1 3 Jul 16, 2016 12:40PM  
All about the great book 2 6 Nov 05, 2015 08:53AM  

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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

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