The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. (Grades 4-7?) Candlewick, September 2009.
Copy checked out from the library. Because libraries are awesome and where would we be without them?
Peter is a 10-year-old boy, an orphan training for a life as a soldier. When his master sends him to the market with a coin to buy bread, Peter makes an impulsive decision and spends the coin at a fortune teller's booth instead. He asks about his sister - is she living and how can he find her? - but the fortune teller's advice is preposterous. She tells him to follow the elephant. But no one Peter knows has ever even seen an elephant.
When the magician "accidentally" brings an elephant crashing through the roof, crushing the legs of one of the fine ladies in the audience, Peter sees a glimmer of hope. And things will come together in a truly magical way.
Ohhhhh where to even start?
The Magician's Elephant is a magical tale. It's one of those quiet, powerful books, each word chosen carefully. It's unspeakably sad, but also happy and hopeful. I think this will be a book that you either love or you don't.
I'll be interested to see what kids think of it. It reminds me of The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. And it also kind of reminded me of Lois Lowry's Gossamer. All three of those books combine that ethereal, magical feeling with some heavy subject matter.
I'm sorry - I know this isn't much of a review, but I think The Magician's Elephant is one of those books that you just have to read for yourself and decide what you think about it. Sarah Miller described it as an "out-of-body experience", which is exactly how I feel only I'm not nearly as eloquent as she is.
Oh, and it's going to be a movie.