The Magician's Elephant - Kate DiCamillo

The elephant's dramatic and unexpected appearance changed the way the people of the city of Baltese spoke. If, for instance, a person was deeply surprised or moved, he or she would say, "I was, you understand, in the presence of the elephant."

I'm a huge fan of Kate DiCamillo's The Tale of Despereaux, which I read for the first time several years ago. I also was deeply moved by The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane: I like the way she uses the fantastic to talk about very real emotions. Since Ridley had really enjoyed Despereaux, I decided to read this, DiCamillo's latest, to her as well.

The story has a large cast of characters, but the central character is Peter, an orphan in the care of an old soldier. He has been told from a very young age that his sister Adele died at birth. But then he visits a fortuneteller on a whim, and she tells him that not only is Adele alive, but that he must "follow the elephant" who will lead him to her. And then, of course, an elephant arrives, in the form of a magician's trick: the conjured elephant comes crashing through the roof of the opera house, crushing Madam LaVaughn's legs. This leads to a whole series of events and remarkable coincidences, peppered with characters like Tomas the singing beggar, Bartok Whynn the gargoyle carver, and Leo Matienne, a small policeman with a very large mustache.

I enjoyed the book, but I don't think Ridley understood it nearly as much as Despereaux. The humor in it is much more subtle and the overall mood of the book is more solemn. The people talk in half-riddles, and there's a lot that is left for readers to fill in for themselves. It's also not filled with the sort of heroic swashbuckling that was in Despereaux. I think it's good for older kids but not necessarily for little kids—not that there's anything inappropriate, but they just won't really get it.

Fed to jonathan's brain | November 29, 2009 | Comments (0)


Post a comment

Remember Me?