Saturday, January 23, 2010


Publisher Review: The Magician's Elephant

by Kate DiCamillo

Kate DiCamillo is almost a sure-fire winner when it comes to middle-grade fiction, but having been a few years since I last read her, I could only remember general impressions about what was so special about her writing when I picked this up. I knew I enjoyed her, recalled that she was really good at creating a mood, and it seemed to me that there was something old-fashioned about her storytelling. And so, like most people in the kidslit world, I was eager to read this latest offering.

When I started, I remembered immediately what makes her writing amazing - she uses language gorgeously, reveling unabashedly in words, and never shying away from using a word that a child will need to ask about. a strong or confident reader will usually pick up the meaning from context, but a reader-aloud may have to explain a word or two, or there may be some looking up, but with her stories being so magical, I don't think it's off-putting, and find it rather a great thing that she may be good enough to entice kids to do that just to stay with her when they need to! Talk about your vocab booster.

The language is not the whole of the story, of course, but one of the ways she helps create an overall atmosphere, which she does beautifully. In this case, there is magic in the air, magic strong enough the swirl through an otherwise depressingly heavy winter. This magic in the town begins with a magician's incredible but unfortunate trick, and gives way to a sense that anything is possible.

Dreams, prophetic dreams, start to bloom in the sleeping minds of the populace, drawing many of them into being part of an unfolding story. it is a strange story, an impossible story, but with the help of the dreams, with the help of a new sense of wonder, the people follow along with it and help it come true.

It's a slightly odd book, this one, but for a child who is willing to dream, who loves a good ending, who loves a beautifully told tale, it's just a lovely book to share and immerse yourself in.

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