Monday, January 16, 2012

Kate DiCamillo: Master Storyteller

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo
Candlewick Press, 2009. 201 pgs.

Confession time:  I have had this book, ahem, a library book, sitting on my shelf since last summer.  I think I may have grabbed it from school as a summer read and didn't get to it then.  I managed to pick it up this winter and devoured it in about a day.  (It's really a one sitting book, but in my world right now, I am lucky to read a simple paragraph in about an hour.  I read, folks, but I read a lot of Mo Willems, Margaret & H.A. Rey and Richard Scarry.  That is my world right now.)

The Magician's Elephant is about a young orphan boy, Peter, who goes to a fortune teller to ask one simple question.  Is his sister still alive?  The answer:  "She lives."  When Peter presses further to find out where she is, the fortune teller gives Peter a cryptic answer, "You must follow the elephant."  And so Peter's quest for his sister begins, and we learn about the mysterious elephant that a magician brought forth instead of a bouquet of lilies.

The genius of Kate DiCamillo never ceases to amaze me. Her prose is so simple and true.  The voice that she writes with speaks to us in a gentle, yet unassuming manner.  I love it!  This book, with its sense of nostalgia, sparkles with love.  'Nuff said.

Regarding another Dicamillo story:  It should be known that my hubby appreciates Kate DiCamillo's writing, too.  We did, after all, read The Tale of Despereaux out loud to one another.  I did, also, drag him to a book event at the U of MN in grad school where Ms. DiCamillo spoke and read aloud the first chapter of Despereaux.  (I cannot recall if this was just before or just after her winning the Newbery Award for Despereaux.)

Late this last summer or early fall, I found that hubby started to read our not quite 3 yr. old Despereaux.  I think that it was on a bookshelf downstairs and one of the two of them saw it while playing downstairs and somehow they started it together.  I was truly amazed that she'd sit still for the story (it does have rather short chapters, though). Kate mesmerized her with delicious soupy storytelling and we read the entire book in the next month or two during bedtime stories!  Even last night, she pointed to it on her bookshelf and said, "We read Despereaux, but we're not going to read it tonight."  I said, "Maybe again in a while (meaning several months or so in my mind)."  She replied, "Yep, I like Despereaux."

Yep kiddo, I liked it too.  Kudos to Kate.

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