What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that though this story can feel somewhat dark with mentions of death in childbirth, legs crushed, and a near-fatal fall, there are wonderful messages to discuss with kids about how honesty and forgiveness can set you free. This is definitely one of those tales that's worth reading aloud and sharing.
What's the story?
When an elephant busts through the roof of the opera house, crushing the legs of Madam LaVaughn in a magic trick gone awry, the whole town is abuzz, especially young Peter. He was just told by a fortuneteller that an elephant would lead him to his sister. Years earlier it was his mother's dying wish that he protect her but his guardian, the military man Vilna Lutz, insists that she didn't survive. Now he must find a way to free the elephant, which requires the help of the incarcerated magician, poor Madam LaVaughn, and a kindly neighbor policeman.
Is it any good?
It's the curious characters here as well as the wonderful lessons that carry this heart-felt fable to a new level. And guaranteed as the story is read aloud -- and really should be -- a different character will resonate with different members of the family. Parents will probably enjoy Bartok Whynn and his new lease on life or the singing beggar and his dog. Kids will enjoy Sister Marie and Adele and their dreams, and all animal lovers will cheer when Peter promises to help the elephant. Then there's the policeman and his kindly wife, who of course want children and can't have them. You'll even want to spend more time with the silly socialite who houses the elephant and crazy Vilna Lutz who insists on Peter eating old bread to toughen him up for military life.
But once all these lives intertwine, the story is over faster than the elephant appeared in the opera house, making THE MAGICIAN'S ELEPHANT a book that's easily enjoyed over and over.
Tanka's illustrations are dark and shadowy but warm and atmospheric. The personalities of DiCamillo's odd assortment of characters come through.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the elephant. What does he represent to each character? Why did he end up in a ballroom for show?
Families can also talk about honesty. Peter doubts Vilna Lutz, while Madam LaVaughn doubts the magician. How do they confront them? Why was it important for these characters to both confront them and forgive? Can you think of a time this has happened in your own life?