I didn’t know Kate DiCamillo’s work at all, but as a Newbery medalist she came highly recommended. I can’t remember what it was about The Magician’s Elephant that had made me want to read it, but when I got to page one I almost turned away. Reading a lot of ‘ordinary’ contemporary children’s fiction makes a person less used to fables, and it’s odd when you think about it, because a lot of our reading in the ‘olden days’ was like this. Maybe I thought I’d grown up and wouldn’t need fables.
Well, I do. Luckily I didn’t stop, and actually gobbled up this book in no time at all. It’s beautiful!
Elephants obviously don’t fall from the sky, with or without the help from a magician, but this one here did. And it’s quite believable. Young Peter wants to find his lost sister, and a fortune teller says the elephant will help him. This being before the elephant fell, Peter thinks it unlikely, but is too polite to say so.
The setting feels like a historical Europe, and the names of the characters suggest a multicultural background. This makes the story fit in with almost everyone. Nothing is quite real, but it’s not unreal either.
Lovely illustrations by Yoko Tanaka, showing us what it might have looked like when the elephant came crashing down. It’s sweet and old-fashioned, and it has a happy ending. You will cry a little, and you will feel good about life.