Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Monday, June 14, 2010

Expect the Unexpected

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Yoko Tanaka

Peter Augustus Duchene lives in the city of Baltese with his guardian Vilna Lutz. One day while in the market Peter sees a fortuneteller's tent and has to go in and ask her one question, if his sister is alive how does he find her. The fortuneteller's answer fills Peter with equal amount of hope and despair. His sister is alive and he must follow the elephant to find her. There had never been an elephant in Baltese, so how could he follow it to his sister? But later that week a magician, meaning only to summon some lilies inadvertently summons an elephant through the theater roof right on top of a noblewoman. Peter is filled with hope that he might find his sister and set things right.

Let me begin by saying that I am a big fan of Kate DiCamillo, so forgive me if this review gets to be a bit gushy from time to time. Needless to say I loved this book. It was so sweet and so filled with the hope that only children have, I was completely taken in and held by this wonderful character of Peter. The book is actually very short although when you pick it up it does not seem to be, the pages are smaller than most books and it has wide margins so it will be a quick read. The chapters are not very long which is perfect for seven to eight year-olds reading this book. We meet many different characters throughout the story that don't always seem to fit together but in the end most of their stories are intertwined. Peter though is why you want to read on to find out what will happen. DiCamillo puts all the wonder and hopefulness of childhood into this character. He is good and honest but also caring, he is the perfect child without being unlikeable. I think what I appreciated most in this story was the hopefulness to see things made right and that the world could be changed to be a better place. It was refreshing to read something that had that kind of blatant optimism. I highly recommend for girls or boys ages seven to nine.

Author Interview and Author Reading


  1. This sounds like a great read! Thanks for the suggestion.

  2. Trisha,
    I hope you like it as much as I did. As I said it was a fast read, I would not be surprised if you finished it in an afternoon. It is just a feel good magical story, in my opinion that is. Let me know how you like it when you get a chance to read it.

  3. Now, this is one I should read.

  4. Ted,
    You should read this one! Actually this might be a fun book to read aloud to your kids, it is a fast enough read that you could do it over a few days so they don't lose interest. Hope you enjoy it.