This book, though not a Newbery book itself, is written by Kate DiCamillo, who wrote the Newbery books Because of Winn Dixie, The Tale of Despereaux, and Flora & Ulysses. The Magician’s Elephant is sweet and has a warm, dark, mid-winter feel to it. The story begins with a young boy missing his sister, who he has been told died at birth. But when a fortune teller tells him that his sister is alive, and the elephant will lead him to her, everything begins to change. Sure enough, an elephant appears when a mediocre magician longs to do something spectacular and makes an elephant appear out of thin air.
The plot is fairly simple, for all it is outlandish and impossible. Something about the writing keeps the fantastic appearance of the elephant subtle and understated, almost dreamy (the illustrations by Yoko Tanaka really add to this feeling). The main draw of this book is the characters, who are almost like characters in a play. Their personalities are silly and their dialogue seems stilted, but not in a bad way–just in a scripted way. It’s almost like you’re watching the characters from above. Everything is very deliberate and precise, and somehow that was comforting to me. It was probably written for younger children, but if you’re looking for a simple, fun story that makes you feel like you’re watching a play, you will probably enjoy this book.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good