The Magician's Elephant

The Magician's Elephant

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When a fortuneteller’s tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her?

The fortuneteller’s mysterious answer (An elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that Peter can hardly dare to believe it.

But it is—all of it—true.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781480537163
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 08/27/2013
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 5.50(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

Kate DiCamillo is the author of award-wining and bestselling books for young readers, including The Tale of Despereaux, which received a Newbery medal; Because of Winn-Dixie, which was a Newbery Honor book; The Tiger Rising, which was a National Book Award finalist; The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane; and Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures, a Newbery Medal winner. Kate DiCamillo lives in Minneapolis.


Minneapolis, Minnesota

Date of Birth:

March 25, 1964

Place of Birth:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


B.A. in English, University of Florida at Gainesville, 1987

Read an Excerpt

Peter stood in the small patch of light making its sullen way through the open flap of the tent. He let the fortuneteller take his hand. She examined it closely, moving her eyes back and forth and back and forth, as if there a whole host of very small words inscribed there, an entire book about Peter Augustus Duchene composed atop his palm.

Excerpted from "The Magician's Elephant"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Kate DiCamillo.
Excerpted by permission of Candlewick Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.


Q & A with Author Kate DiCamillo about her new novel The Magician's Elephant

Q. What is your definition of magic? What has happened in your life that is magical or unexpected?

A. I guess my definition of magic is something very close to the definition the magician gives toward the end of the story: "Magic is always impossible. It begins with the impossible and ends with the impossible and is impossible in between. That is why it is magic." I would add, though, that while magic is impossible from beginning to end, it is also possible. Somehow (who knows how?) the impossible gets turned into the possible. That's magic.
Which leads very nicely into the next part of this question: What has happened in my life that is magical or unexpected? Telling stories seems like magic to me; it seems both impossible and possible in that same way. And what has happened to me and my stories - people reading them, liking them, and me getting to make my living telling them - well, talk about unexpected. Talk about magical.

Q. The Magician's Elephant features an animal character. This is a common theme in your novels. Why an elephant this time?

A. I didn't think, Oh boy, I'm going to put an elephant in a story. I guess it happened this way: The story began for me with the magician and the fact that he wanted to perform real magic, true magic. That magician appeared before me in the lobby of a hotel in New York City. I had, in my satchel, a notebook that I was going to give as a gift to someone. The notebook had an elephant on the cover. And when I went into my bag to get my notebook to write a description of the magician I had just caught sight of,I happened to see that other notebook, the one with a picture of an elephant on the front of it.

Q. Was there a specific place that inspired the setting for the city of Baltese?

A. No, but after I finished writing The Magician's Elephant, I saw a movie that took place in Bruges, and I couldn't concentrate at all on what was happening in the movie
because I was so struck by how much Bruges looked like the city of Baltese, the city I had imagined.

Q. The fortuneteller tells Peter that "truth is forever changing." Why is this an important line in the story, and why did you want to share it with children in general?

A. I think this comes back to the whole idea of the impossible suddenly becoming the possible. We have to remain open to those moments when everything can change. I actually think that children are much better at doing this than adults are because they are much less likely to see things in a black-and-white way. All of us, children and adults, need to remind ourselves that the impossible can become possible. That's one of the great gifts of stories.

Q.What was your predominant feeling while writing this book? Was it faith, or fear? Do you know how your endings will turn out when you start?

A. Oh, I'm always afraid when I'm writing. And I never know how things will turn out. This time around it was particularly terrifying because there were so many different balls up in the air, and I had no idea how I would catch them all. But even though I was terrified, I was also, in a strange and wonderful way, healed by the telling of this story. I got out of my own way and let the story tell me how it would all come together. At the same time, I felt something come together, kind of knit itself, inside of me.

Q. How do you feel about the illustrations? Have you ever met Yoko Tanaka?

A. I think the illustrations are an astonishment, a wonder, a marvel. They literally take my breath away. They are haunting and otherworldly and just exactly right. I have never met Yoko, no. And yet she painted the world I imagined.

Q. Isn't that strange and wonderful?

A. Impossible, but true.

Customer Reviews

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The Magician's Elephant 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 371 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Magician's Elephant By: Kate Dicamillo Peter is just trying to get the answer to the simple question, "Does she live?" What Peter does not know is that this one question will lead him on a search for his missing sister. His mom trusted him to keep his sister safe but the he had to let her go. On an errand he found a fortuneteller and asked her. The fortuneteller said to follow the elephant. Then when an unexpected visitor comes to town, peter figures out the way. The suspenseful chapters make you feel like you cannot put the book down. The clever descriptions draw a very clear picture in your mind. It is easy to see the gloomy snow covered days that spread across the town day after day and the beggar with his black dog Iddo. The elephant, magician, and Madam La Vaughn, all play very important rolls to help tell the reader that you can trust others. All these characters join together to help the elephant go home and Peter find his sister. It was very difficult for Madam to help and join with the magician that crippled her legs. What does she choose? (Published by candlewick press, copyright 2009) Recommended for ages 7 - 12
greekmeee More than 1 year ago
i loved this book i read it like 10 times lol i loved the tale of desperaux so i thought "hey i guess i will read this one too" well good thing i did haha. i think this book is good for ppl at the ages of about 7 to 11 0r 12
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kate DiCamillo has written another outstanding book! The Magician's Elephant is a story about hope, belonging, and forgiveness. One can easily identify with each character in her book and their struggles in life! A little boy longs to find his "lost" sister and to belong to someone and be loved. A childless couple longs to have children. A magician longs to be recognized and noticed for extraordinary magic. An elephant who is "homesick" longs to return home. All of us want to feel loved, noticed, and that we "belong" to someone. This is what makes us human. Kate DiCamillo not only appeals to children, but to adults as well. This book was a page turner and I read it in one day!
Christopher_C More than 1 year ago
Kate DiCamillo's newest novel the Magician's Elephant is a hauntingly beautiful tale with rich characters that focus on hope and making the impossible possible. The mood lavishly set with DiCamillo's writing style and Yoko Tanaka's brilliant illustrations. Young Peter lives with an old soldier that knew his father when they were in battle together. When sent to the market to get bread and fish, Peter uses his only money to ask a fortuneteller if his sister is still alive. He receives a mysterious answer about following an elephant and is shocked to later discover an elephant was conjured up accidentally by a magician during his recent performance. With the help of a policeman named Leo, Peter sets out to rescue the elephant and find is sister
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
How many pages is this book? Someone please answer :)
Annibebe More than 1 year ago
This book was entertaining, but at first, I thought I might not like it - there was no introduction to the characters - they just came alive with a big bang. Not as good as The Tale of Despereaux", but still good reading.
JennJR More than 1 year ago
I bought two copies of this book and liked almost as much as the nine year old I bought it for. This book is not only good to help bridge learning vocabulary and reading vocabulary, but the story in itself is great for everyone in the family. I've actually recommended this book to my adult friends to read.
Lindsey_Miller More than 1 year ago
As always, DiCamillo introduces her readers to a beautiful world full of interesting characters. Not quite the allegorical social commentary of The Tale of Despereaux, The Magician's Elephant is still an engaging journey through what seems to be a small European town at the turn of the century. The magic is not an end to itself, but rather is the catalyst in bringing about a chain of events that cause various characters to shift from their comfort zones and move onto something greater. In this way, DiCamillo is subtle, but powerful, and it can be both a fun book for younger readers as well as a book with multiple layers for older ones. I recommend this book to all readers 8+. -Lindsey Miller,
Jenny More than 1 year ago
A heartfelt, timeless fable about the power of wonder and the magic of "What if?". DiCamillo's been working in the style of faux fairytale since Desperaux, and the lessons she's learned in her previous books help here: she keeps it short, sweet, and to the point. I feel, as the people of Baltese say, as though I were in the presence of the elephant.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book when i was in 5th grade and it was a good read. Although i think that a 6th grader would enjoy the book more. It can be a little slow at first but once one gets into the story it is difficult to put down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Funny and a very high vocabulary(6th grade) good book for teachers to read to their students
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a really good!!! Recommend that 4-6 grade read it...
meisbres on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Imagine. You are at a magic show. The magician promises to produce a bouquet of lilies, but instead he makes an elephant fall through the ceiling. That elephant lands on a woman's lap, crippling her legs. And so begins The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. Unfortunately, that is the most exciting part of the book. Although I love Because of Winn Dixie and am a fan of anything involving elephants, I just couldn't get into this book. After the elephant falls on page 15, nothing much exciting happens until the book ends 200 pages later. I give this book a thumbs down. (For ages 8 and up)
debnance on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A boy spend the coin he¿s been given for supper on a fortuneteller. The fortuneteller reveals to the boy that his sister, thought to be dead, is alive and that an elephant will lead the boy to his sister. A magician conjures up his greatest miracle, an elephant. An old soldier tries to pass on his knowledge of war to a disinterested boy. A nun turns away an elephant who comes knocking on her door. A couple longs for a child.Kate DiCamillo somehow ties all these little tales together to create a beautiful tale of love and redemption. Magical. Dreamy. Hopeful. Recommended.
Pickle115 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
There is a gem of a story contained between the cover of this small book! Ms DiCamillo is an excellent story-teller and this is my favorite one so far!
goldstars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary- The Magician's Elephant is a story about a young orphan named Peter who lives with an old soldier. Peter speaks to a fortune teller one day who tells him his younger sister is alive, despite what Peter has been told his entire life. Peter then begins his quest to find his younger sister, Adele. Peter's journey results in meeting various characters and an elephant. Peter finds his sister in the end and all the misdoings are corrected. Opinion- I thought the book had an eerie and dark feel to it throughout the storyline. The illustrations were very dark and soft and helped create the mood Camillo wanted to achieve. I thought the book would be very difficult for young children to read. This book is more than vocabulary rich. I could not read this to my first-graders but I believe it could be read to 5th or 6th grade students. I enjoyed the plot of the book but found the vocabulary to hinder the flow of the story.
TFS93 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I did like this one much more than the last one I read by her. I liked the ending very much. All the stories were told very nicely but just didn't seem to fit together that well. Maybe I am being critical because I am an adult and the book was written for children. A lovely story but I wished it would have all tied together better, but a perfect ending! I loved the illustrations!
elissajanine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was a magical readaloud where every word, every image, every character was perfectly in tune, beautifully crafted. When I finished reading, the whole family had happy tears in our eyes, and my seven-year-old said, "But where's the medal on the cover?" Gorgeous writing and a sweet, magical story as well.
M_Behr on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While reading this book, the overwhelming thought in the back of my mind was, "I can't wait to read this again." Now THAT is a powerful sentiment to get from a book!
Arconna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Readers will remember Kate DiCamillo as the author of the adorable Tale of Despereaux, which was turned into a computer animated film in 2008 (which I had the pleasure of seeing and enjoying). The Magician's Elephant is a less expansive narrative, but one which attempts to reach into the heart of the human condition through the figure of the child. It is a story which looks at the moral complications of lies, the power of loyalty, and the desire and safety found in the family unit (even if that unit is broken).The Magician's Elephant is about Peter Augustus Duchene, a young boy who has lost his entire family and who has been adopted by an ill and disgruntled soldier (Vilna Lutz) who wants Peter to grow up to be just like him. But when Peter spends Vilna's grocery money on a fortuneteller, he learns an amazing truth: his sister is alive and an elephant will lead the way. A series of strange events soon follows and Peter begins to question everything, uncovering the lies about his life and his family.DiCamillo makes me wish I had children. The Magician's Elephant lends itself well to parental voice acting because it has such a large cast of characters: Peter, Vilna, Adele, the Elephant (you read that right), the Magician, Leo, and several more. Each character, remarkably, has his or her own storyline, though some get more attention than others for obvious reasons. The plethora of characters adds a certain charm to the story, since it allows DiCamillo to move temporarily away from the dark family-oriented narrative of Peter into the odd-ness of her world and its eccentric cast. The novel never truly escapes from darkness, though, resting firmly in dark comedy territory.The darkness is perhaps why I found the book so interesting. Setting aside Peter's orphan status, the novel is rife with trauma-induced mental illness. Vilna is a broken soldier who still thinks he's part of the army, crying out as if experiencing flashbacks from a war we're never really told about. The Magician and Madam LaVaughn have been reduced to the repetition of the same grief-stricken routine by the trauma of the Elephant's entry into the world. Some readers may find the darkness overwhelming, but I think the effect it has on the closure of the narrative is more powerful than would the excavation of everything but Peter's story. The intersection of all of these other stories and traumas makes the ending a fascinating (almost cathartic) experience (though, in all honesty, I think there were too many secondary characters, some of which weren't given the attention they deserved). A good deal of the trauma is also attached to an underlying didacticism in the narrative, which I found interesting not because there were messages to be found and learned in The Magician's Elephant, but because the perspective through which these moralistic moments are derived is that of a child (Peter). There aren't any grand moments in which adult characters tell the young protagonist that X is wrong and that they must learn a lesson (except when DiCamillo wants to show how some of the adults are hypocrites).As a story for kids, I think The Magician's Elephant is a fantastic read. While the story is dark, there are plenty of humorous moments. The quirkiness of the plot and characters doesn't get in the way of the story, though, which is something some chapter books fall prey to. Instead, The Magician's Elephant is a wonderful story about the power of family, friends, forgiveness, and compassion, with an interesting cast of characters and a strong plot. It's definitely something to read with your kids (if you have them) or to read on your own.
LisaBohman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a dark and sad story about an orphan brother and sister, separated at the birth of the sister when their mother dies. When the boy, Peter, learns from a fortune teller that when he sees an elephant he needs to follow it to find his sister, he is skeptical at first. Then one day a magician makes an elephant appear instead of a bouquet of lilies, breaking the legs of an old women in the process. When Peter hears of the elephant he becomes determined to meet the elephant to help him find his sister. This book brings up concepts of loss and suffering. It makes children aware that life is not always perfect with a happy ending, but that you can make the most of what you have. I would recommend this book for slightly older children, such as fourth grade age, so they are ready to understand the heavy material in the book. This was not an uplifting book, but it was well written. It was similar to DiCamillo's Tale of Despereaux in the sense that it is dark and deals with heavier concepts for children to understand.
krau0098 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have read DiCamillo's story "The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" previously and really liked it. When I saw she had written another book I was really excited to read it. This is a fabulous book; but touches on more adult topics than her other books.Peter Augustus Duchene is a 10 year old boy who has lost his father to war, his mother to childbirth, and his sister at birth. He lives with a military friend of his father's. The problem is that Peter remembers hearing his sister cry and is convinced that she isn't dead. A fortuneteller tells his that he will find his sister if he follows the elephant; but he can't figure out what she means as there are no elephants in Peter's life. Then a magician tries to perform a feat of magic that goes horribly wrong. Peter needs to figure out how the lonely elephant will help him find his sister. The elephant needs to get home, but before that it will open the eyes of the citizens of Peter's city to the fact that wondrous things can happen.This was a wonderful book. The characters are engaging and colorful, the writing wonderful. Like DiCamillo's other works the writing style follows classic fairy tale-type prose and results in a darkly atmospheric setting. The story is interspersed with wonderful illustrations by Yojo Tanaka, that fit the mood of the story perfectly.The book itself is pretty small, at most a couple hours of reading. It seems like it would be a good book to read to children as it starts. As I continued to read it though I think many of the adult characters' pondering and some sensitive topics might make this more suited to the young adult (or older) crowd. At one point the elephant contemplates suicide and Peter's caretaker is occasionally quite cruel. Much of the story centers around characters outside of Peter himself and these characters spend a lot of time contemplating how the wonder of an elephant appearing in the city changes their perception of their lives, because if that can happen anything can happen. I think these contemplations will be lost on a younger child and they may find the book to be very slow moving and boring at parts.I personally found these contemplations to be fascinating and thought-provoking. This is the kind of book that sounds very good when read out-loud and is very lyrical. The story itself is hopeful as well as thoughtful; although the overall atmosphere is very dark and dreary. I thought it was just a superb story. I look forward to reading DiCamillo's future works and will keep an eye out for her future publications.
okeanotiszois on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In the timeless city of Baltese, ten-year-old Peter Augustus Duchene is on his way to the market to purchase a meager meal for himself and his guardian, Vilna Lutz, when he is sidetracked by a sign advertised by a fortuneteller. "The most profound and difficult questions that could possibly be posed by the human mind or heart will be answered within for the price of one florit." He makes a decision to ask her how to find his sister. The fortuneteller tells him to follow the elephant. With that inexplicable answer the magical journey truly begins.With Peter's question events are set in motion that will involve others in his quest, a quest that will lead others to their own desired wishes. A beautifully written story that captures the imagination of the heart. Peter's intense belief that his sister is still alive and his journey to find the answers, against all the possibilities of finding an elephant is the heart of this story. Very atmospheric storytelling, this is DiCamillo at her best. Ages 9-12Publisher: Candlewick (September 2009)ISBN: 9780763644109Available as an eBook.
vibrantminds on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another inspiring tale from Kate DiCamillo. One small (or large) act of magic brings about the unexpected and allows the true magic to take place. That one act affects many people's lives and connects and binds them together for a grand finale of little fanfare.