Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

Harry Houdini's famous magic trick, in which he made an elephant vanish in the Hippodrome theatre in New York in January of 1918, was no doubt the inspiration for Kate DiCamillo's charming children's story, The Magician's Elephant. The setting -- winter in the imaginary city of Baltese -- again brings Houdini's era to mind. There is also a sense of timelessness, however. The full-page illustrations by Yoko Tanaka add to feel of it being a traditional tale or fable.

Ten-year-old Peter Augustus Duchene learns from a fortuneteller that one member of his family survives: his little sister Adele. He is told that an elephant will lead him to her. This is a story about the importance and the rewards of faith and hope. People (and animals) learn to pay attention to their nightly dreams. Courage is necessary in order to bring about positive changes in the world.

A good read-aloud choice for a mixed-ages group; Grade 3 to adult. Similar books include Skellig (David Almond); The Book of Everything (Guus Kuijer); The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman) and, for slightly older children or teens, The Ghost Child (Sonya Hartnett).

No comments: