Excerpt from The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Magician's Elephant

By Kate DiCamillo

The Magician's Elephant
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Hardcover: Sep 2009,
    208 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2011,
    208 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Tamara Smith

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Chapter One

At the end of the century before last, in the market square of the city of Baltese, there stood a boy with a hat on his head and a coin in his hand. The boy’s name was Peter Augustus Duchene, and the coin that he held did not belong to him but was instead the property of his guardian, an old soldier named Vilna lutz, who had sent the boy to the market for fish and bread.

That day in the market square, in the midst of the entirely unremarkable and absolutely ordinary stalls of the fishmongers and cloth merchants and bakers and silversmiths, there had appeared, without warning or fanfare, the red tent of a fortuneteller. Attached to the fortuneteller’s tent was a piece of paper, and penned upon the paper in a cramped and unapologetic hand were these words: The most profound and difficult questions that could possibly be posed by the human mind or heart will be answered within for the price of one florit.

Peter read the small sign once, and then again. The audacity of the words, their dizzying promise, made it difficult, suddenly, for him to breathe. He looked down at the coin, the single florit, in his hand.

"But I cannot do it," he said to himself.

"Truly, I cannot, for if I do, Vilna Lutz will ask where the money has gone and I will have to lie, and it is a very dishonorable thing to lie."

He put the coin in his pocket. He took the soldier’s hat off his head and then put it back on. He stepped away from the sign and came back to it and stood considering, again, the outrageous and wonderful words.

"But I must know," he said at last. He took the florit from his pocket. "I want to know the truth. And so I will do it. But I will not lie about it, and in that way, I will remain at least partly honorable." With these words, Peter stepped into the tent and handed the fortuneteller the coin.

And she, without even looking at him, said, "One florit will buy you one answer and only one. Do you understand?"

"Yes," said Peter.

He stood in the small patch of light making its sullen way through the open flap of the tent. He let the fortuneteller take his hand. She examined it closely, moving her eyes back and forth and back and forth, as if there were a whole host of very small words inscribed there, an entire book about Peter Augustus Duchene composed atop his palm.

" Huh," she said at last. She dropped his hand and squinted up at his face. "But, of course, you are just a boy."

"I am ten years old," said Peter. He took the hat from his head and stood as straight and tall as he was able. "And I am training to become a soldier, brave and true. But it does not matter how old I am. You took the florit, so now you must give me my answer."

"A soldier brave and true?" said the fortuneteller. She laughed and spat on the ground. "Very well, soldier brave and true, if you say it is so, then it is so. Ask me your question."

Peter felt a small stab of fear. What if, after all this time, he could not bear the truth? What if he did not really want to know?

"Speak," said the fortuneteller. "Ask."

"My parents," said Peter.

"That is your question?" said the fortuneteller. "They are dead."

Peter’s hands trembled. "That is not my question," he said. "I know that already. You must tell me something that I do not know. You must tell me of another - you must tell me . . ."

The fortuneteller narrowed her eyes. "Ah," she said. "Her? Your sister? That is your question? Very well. She lives."

Peter’s heart seized upon the words. She lives. She lives!

"No, please," said Peter. He closed his eyes. He concentrated. "If she lives, then I must find her, so my question is, how do I make my way there, to where she is?"

He kept his eyes closed; he waited.

Excerpted from The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo Copyright © 2009 by Kate DiCamillo. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Pope and Mussolini
    The Pope and Mussolini
    by David I. Kertzer
    The Pope and Mussolini is a riveting account of the parallel rise to power of the authoritarian ...
  • Book Jacket: The Promise
    The Promise
    by Ann Weisgarber
    Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables fame, once wrote that "...all things ...
  • Book Jacket: Black Moon
    Black Moon
    by Kenneth Calhoun
    The popularity of book-turned-movie World War Z and television series The Walking Dead points to a ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Win this book!
Win The Steady Running of the Hour

The Steady Running of the Hour

"Exciting, emotionally engaging and amibtious. I loved it!" - Kate Mosse

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

I T T O A Eye

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.