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The Magician's Elephant    by Kate DiCamillo & Yoko Tanaka order for
Magician's Elephant
by Kate DiCamillo
Order:  USA  Can
Candlewick, 2009 (2009)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

You can imagine the shock, surprise, and absolute wonder that gripped the residents of Baltese when one night an elephant came crashing through the ceiling of the Bliffendorf Opera House during a magician's performance. The large creature landed on top of Madam Bettine La Vaughn, crushing her legs and bringing an end to the evening's festivities.

Madam La Vaughn ended up in a wheelchair, the magician was locked up in jail, and I found a way of discovering the whereabouts of my little sister who had been lost since the day she was born.

My name is Peter Augustus Duchene. I am ten years old and an orphan. My father was killed in a war and my mother died shortly after giving birth to Adele, my sister. I was told by the man who raised me that Adele was stillborn and never saw the light of day. I had my doubts, though. When a fortuneteller told me one day that my sister was alive, I knew for sure that I had been lied to. I had rather thought that Vilna Lutz, the man who was trying to turn me into a soldier like my father, had not been truthful.

The fortuneteller also told me what I had to do if I wanted to find my sister: 'You must follow the elephant,' she said. 'She will lead you there.' 'You are having fun with me,' I responded. 'There are no elephants here.'

Well, as you can see, I was wrong. Shortly after my talk with this wise woman, an elephant did, indeed, drop into the lives of everyone in our city. This novel is about how the elephant not only affected the lives of some of the residents of Baltese but also how she did, in fact, reunite me with my sister, Adele.

As you'll see as you read my remarkable story, 'There is as much magic in making things disappear as there is in making them appear. More, perhaps. The undoing is almost always more difficult than the doing.'

What this quote from the novel means will become clear once you have finished this unforgettable tale. My sister disappeared and then reappeared while the elephant magically appeared and then just as mysteriously disappeared. As that fortuneteller said to me, 'Perhaps you have noticed: the truth is forever changing.' That is certainly what happens in this book and as the truth changes, so do the lives of many of the individuals you'll meet in my city.

By the way, if you read and enjoyed The Tale of Despereaux, I should tell you the same lady, Kate DiCamillo, wrote my story, so I think you'll like it just as much. Also, Yoko Tanaka created a number of splendid full-page illustrations that accompany the text and show what everyone looks like.

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