“‘The elephant,’ said the fortuneteller.
‘What?’ Peter said. He opened his eyes, certain that he had misunderstood.
‘You must follow the elephant,’ said the fortuneteller. ‘She will lead you there.’
Peter’s heart, which had risen up high inside of him, now sank slowly back to its normal resting place. He put his hat on his head. ‘You are having fun with me,’ he said. ‘There are no elephants here.’
‘Just as you say,’ said the fortuneteller.
‘That is surely the truth, at least for now. But perhaps you have not noticed: the truth is forever changing.’
Before the coldest of the grayest winters the city has ever seen, Peter approaches the mysterious fortuneteller with trepidation. He knows he is an orphan, but…but he remembers a baby crying, a sister. Is she still alive, he wants to know? If she is, how can he find her?
The fortuneteller’s answer seems unbelievable: where would Peter find an elephant, anyway? However, with the scrap of hope and a fortuneteller’s cryptic message, Peter embarks on an adventure that will not only change an entire city, but also bring him the family he longs for.
I was a terrifically anxious child. We’re talking escaping-from-kindergarten-on-foot-to-avoid-standardized-testing, elaborate-separation-rituals-including-begging-and-possibly-vomiting, germ-phobic-before-hand-sanitizer-was-a-thing kind of nervous. It wasn’t pretty, friends, and the calmest moments of my childhood were when my parents or teachers read out loud to me. For that reason, I am on a perpetual quest for The Perfect Sharing Read-Alouds: those books that are interesting to both adults and little ones, with the stories full of things to prepare you to face the world. Since they are bedtime books, a soothing quality is important. Funny is definitely a plus. Illustrations? Absolutely.
I’m pleased to tell you that The Magician’s Elephant is possibly one of the most perfect books for sharing. A fortuneteller whose tent appears one day and is gone the next? A long-lost sister? An orphanage whose door is always guarded by a nun, waiting to welcome all that are lost? A magician who has just accomplished the most stunning bit of magic of his life? A bewildered elephant?! Yes, oh yes. And while the plot elements and characters are creative and wonderful in themselves, the illustrations and tone combine to form a story about love and families and bravery that will break your heart, it’s so pretty.
The author, Kate DiCamillo, says this about her book: “I wanted. I needed. I longed to tell a story of love and magic. Peter, Adele, the magician, the elephant-all the characters in this book are the result of that longing. I hope that you, the reader, find some love and magic here.” I did! I think you will, too.
Author’s website: http://www.katedicamillo.com
DiCamillo, Kate. The Magician’s Elephant. Candlewick: Somerville, 2009. 201 pp. Ages 8 and up.
Would you like to know what other books are on my Sharing List?
Toys Go Out
The Neverending Story
The Adventures of Hugo Cabret
The Chronicles of Narnia
The Phantom Tollbooth
I’d love to hear your suggestions! What books are you sharing?