The Magician's Elephant

The Magician's Elephant

The Magician's Elephant

The Magician's Elephant


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Kate DiCamillo’s New York Times best-selling fable about trusting the unexpected and making the extraordinary come true.

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 you will hardly dare to believe it’s true. With atmospheric illustrations by fine artist Yoko Tanaka, here is a dreamlike and captivating tale that could only be narrated by Newbery Medalist 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. With dreamlike illustrations and a cover by Yoko Tanaka.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780763680886
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 12/08/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 25,071
Product dimensions: 5.13(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.59(d)
Lexile: 730L (what's this?)
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

About The Author
Kate DiCamillo is the author of The Tale of Despereaux, which was awarded the Newbery Medal; The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, winner of a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award; Because of Winn-Dixie, a Newbery Honor winner; The Tiger Rising, a National Book Award Finalist; the picture book Great Joy; and six books starring Mercy Watson, including a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book. She lives in Minneapolis.

Yoko Tanaka is a graduate of the Art Center College in Pasadena, California. She is the illustrator of Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos by R.L. LaFevers, and Sparrow Girl by Sara Pennypacker. Yoko Tanaka lives in Los Angeles and Bangkok.


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.

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