Peter is an orphan, being taken care of by an old military friend of his father’s. He barely remembers his parents, and his guardian has told him for years that Peter’s baby sister was stillborn. Peter feels no hope of ever seeing any of them again, resigned to his meager lifestyle with a cranky old man. That is, until he spends a coin on a fortune teller who gives him hope. Hope that his sister is alive, hope that he can find her. Sure, it’s impossible, but since when is the impossible — especially when you have a magician and an elephant and a policeman helping — improbable?
The Magician’s Elephant is a very charming and sweet story. It’s one that has the power to resonate with you afterward: it’s about hope and love and change, but nothing Grand or Sweeping. It’s all very small, very personal. It explores, very subtly, the effects that one person can have on another, and the desires we have to be Grand and Sweeping sometimes. It works as a parable but it also works as a straightforward story: the characters ran the gamut, and you feel for Peter and his predicament immediately. Everyone is sympathetic, even the cranky old man. And yet, it isn’t cloying. The words are deliciously gorgeous, as are the illustrations; it’s a book to be savored. Or read aloud.
Either way, it will be enjoyed.