What do an elephant, a tiger, and a china doll rabbit have in common? This week’s reviews come courtesy of my wife’s bookshelves. She has been wanting me to read some of her books, so I decided to do a triple read by the wonderful Kate DiCamillo. Last year, I read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane for the first time and fell head over heels for this beautifully illustrated story. It definitely deserved a reread, so I selected it along with two others for review.
37. The Magician’s Elephant
In this fairy tale story, orphan Peter Augustus Dechene is told by a fortuneteller that his little sister is still alive and that an elephant will reunite them. This news brings the first good news into Peter’s life since his parents died and he has been in the care of an emotionally abusive old soldier. Unfortunately, there is no elephant in the European town of Baltese, that is until a magician makes one appear out of thin air and crash through the roof of the local opera house. The mysterious appearance of the elephant has a profound effect on the people of Baltese as they learn important human truths about themselves and others.
This is a wonderful little tale that comes across to me as a combination of old world fairy tales and Kafka’s absurdist fiction. It is an extremely compelling story brought to life by the great black and white illustrations of artist Yoko Tanaka. I really appreciated the details put into the presentation of the work, such as the bold typeface and the black and white illustrations which reflect the perpetual darkness that the city of Baltese is in. This is a very heartwarming story for little ones, as well as adults as DiCamillo teaches us important lessons about the need for hope and the power of human relationships.
I finished this short book in nearly a single reading. It will leave you smiling in the end.
38. The Tiger Rising
The setting for this finalist for the National Book Award is Florida, where Rob Horton now lives with his father following the passing of his mother. Neither one talk about Rob’s mother, and the child has been taught that it is wrong to express his grief. Despite his sadness and the bullying he receives at school, Rob has learned to keep all of his feelings locked inside his “suitcase.” One day, two extraordinary things happen: Rob meets a headstrong misfit named Sistine Bailey as well as discovers a tiger locked in a cage in the woods. Through his encounters with both of these oddities, Rob begins to learn that memories and pain cannot be locked up forever.
This is another great little story by DiCamillo. I love the metaphor of the trapped tiger for keeping feelings bottled up. As a therapist, I found this to be an all too real look at how we often fall into the trap about keeping our pain to ourselves. This is another winner from DiCamillo.
39. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
I couldn’t complete this triple review of DiCamillo without rereading this beautiful tale about a china doll rabbit. Edward Tulane was given to Abilene, a little girl who worships him and makes sure he is dressed in the finest clothes and given the best care. The problem is that Edward is a rather selfish rabbit who really shouldn’t be bothered to care about the everyday issues of his human master. He had a very high opinion of himself and really held no love for anyone else. Then one day he became lost.
If you don’t completely fall in love with the story of Edward Tulane, then you don’t possess a soul. As Edward ends up falling into the care of one owner after the other, his heart slowly begins to open. The once selfish china rabbit learns the value of human love and what truly is the greatest gift of all. The combination of DiCamillo’s words with the beautiful illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline make Edward Tulane’s journey truly miraculous.
I look forward to reading more from Kate DiCamillo along with checking out more of the great books from my wife’s bookshelves. My wife has taught me many valuable life lessons as well, the most important being that we should never lose our childlike sense of wonder. Nor the power of love.
“Open your heart. Someone will come. Someone will come for you. But first you must open your heart.”–The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
Please share your thoughts on this book or this review. Comments are always welcome.