The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo (2009)

“Magic is always impossible,” said the Magician. “It begins with the impossible and ends with the impossible and is impossible in between. That is why it is magic” (p 154).

magicianselephantIn true and excellent DiCamillo fashion, the reader is introduced to an array of interesting characters in short vignettes that clearly and subtly endear them to the reader. Then, the characters, like pieces of a mosaic, come together, compliment each other, and form a beautiful piece of art. Like Dickens for children, with all his depth and humor and observational elegance.

Take, for example, our introduction to the countess Quintet and her husband (who plays hardly any role at all and yet his character and their relationship is at once as familiar to me as any one of Jane Austen’s). The countess speaks on page 57:

“I truly feel, I am quite certain, I am absolutely convinced, that I will lose my mind if I hear the word elephant one more time.”
“Elephant,” muttered the count.
“What did you say?” said the countess. She whirled around and stared at her husband.”
“Nothing,” said the count.
“Something must be done,” said the countess.

Or our introduction to Leo Matienne, who plays a larger role, on page 34:

Leo Matienne had the soul of a poet, and because of this, he liked very much to consider questions that had no answer.
He liked to ask “What if?” and “Why not?” and “Could it possibly be?”

Definitely one of the most distinguished books of 2009, but the most distinguished… not sure. It will certainly be discussed in OCL’s mock Newbery.

Publisher: Candlewick (September 8, 2009)

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