Orphan Peter Augustus Duchene is certain that his sister is alive. He remembers holding her right after she was born and hearing her cry. But his guardian repeatedly tells him that he is wrong, that his sister was born dead, and that he is a fool to keep thinking about her. But when a fortune-teller’s red tent suddenly appears in the market square, Peter decides to use the coin he was given by his guardian. He just wants to know the answer to one question: If his sister is alive, how could he find her?When the fortune-teller tells him that he must follow the elephant, Peter is devastated. There are no elephants in the city of Baltese, where he lives. But when a magician manages to make an elephant instead of a bouquet of lilies appear out of thin air, Peter knows what he must do.
This magical tale not only takes you into Peter’s world, but the world of those around him: their fears, their hopes and dreams, and their belief in the impossible.
Each character—from earnest Peter to the unfortunate elephant—is so lovingly and carefully crafted that you can feel what each one of them is going through. But the character of Peter is the most wonderful of all. He is not only innocent and sincere, the hope within his heart despite everything the world (and his guardian) throws at him shines through till the very last page. His love for his family and his promise to his mother to take care of his sister carry him through to do the impossible.
Magic and reality
The sadness within each one of the characters is very real; however, what surrounds them is the unbelievable and magical presence of an elephant that shows up in the middle of one of the coldest winters in Baltese.
The elephant isn’t a magical creature coming from another world. Upon finding herself the victim of a powerful magic trick, she is sad, she wants to go home to her family and her country, and when she feels the hopelessness of her situation, she just wants to die. But her very presence makes the people of Baltese believe in impossible things again and in the possibility of a future happiness. If something like this can happen, then maybe their hopes and dreams can come true too.
The book is beautiful and there are no letdowns, however, as in all of Kate DiCamillo’s books, there is an inherent sadness in each one of her characters. But the light in all her stories transcends this sadness and shows you that despite their situation, in the end, there is still a reason to believe.
Bookshelf Meter: 5 stars
1 star – Don’t even bother.
2 stars – Since there’s nothing else to read…
3 stars – Worth a borrowing from a friend, but not buying your own
4 stars – Deserves a spot on your nightstand.
5 stars – Grab this book now and forget the one you’re reading!
Available at Fully Booked and National Book Store.
Got a question or comment for Olivia? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Olivia Yao has been writing ever since she can remember. She has written for health, teen, parenting, and children's magazines. Her latest endeavor is being a mom to her three-year-old daughter—her toughest assignment yet.