The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

I have been feeling a bit despondent lately, with schools being forced into becoming academies, junior doctors having to strike, and our government voting to abandon thousands of refugee children. It can be hard to find the good.

So I did what any sane person does in this situation and I turned to my books for hope and refuge. A trip to my local bookshop was in order. And I found this gem. 


‘What if? Why not? Could it be? When a fortune-teller’s tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchenne knows the questions that he must ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her? The fortune-teller’s mysterious answer (An elephant! An elephant will lead you there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it is true. With atmospheric illustrations by fine artist Yoko Tanaka, here is a dreamlike and captivating tale that could only be told by Kate DiCamillo. In this timeless fable, she evokes the largest of themes – hope and belonging, desire and compassion – with the lightness of a magician’s touch.’

This book restored by faith in the world, as books so often can. The Magician’s Elephant is a patchwork quilt of characters, linked together by chance meetings, and united by their cause. 

The writing is, of course, sublime. The blurb above mentions her lightness of touch and that is absolutely true of DiCamillo’s writing. It is almost as if she’s not telling you the story at all but suggesting it, offering it, giving you the space to find yourself within it. 

Like this:

‘Leo Matienne cleared his throat, once, and then again. He opened his mouth and spoke two simple words. He said, “What if?”

The magician raised his head then and looked at the policeman. “What if?” he said. “‘What if?’ is a question that belongs to magic.”

“Yes,” said Leo, “to magic and also to the world in which we live every day. So: what if? What if you merely tried?”‘

DiCamillo is saying, “here, believe again.” 

And I did. 

You can get your copy here

Kate DiCamillo’s latest book, Raymie Nightingale was released by Walker Books earlier this month and has just moved right to the top of my wish list.

Source – bought from the delicious Book Nook, Hove.

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