Tag Archives: Kate DiCamillo

“You disappoint me,” she whispered.

the stars

I loved reading this book. I cannot praise Kate DiCamillo’s talent enough for weaving such details into a story and creating such beautiful characters. Edward Tulane starts out as the perfect little self-centered porcelain bunny rabbit. At the beginning his word is just so… exact. But Pellegrina sees that he disappoints — a little girl’s bunny rabbit should love that little girl just as much as she loves him. But Edward doesn’t love anyone… he cares only about himself. So he must go out into the world… his heart must be broken… he must suffer and constantly leave without saying goodbye… only then, does he learn to love.

Those stars which he finds so comforting at the beginning of the story, don’t care the slightest bit about him when he’s out alone in a field of crows! “I have been loved,” poor little Edward cries pathetically into the night… “So?” is the stars’ reply. It’s quite befitting that the book opens with a quote from “The Testing Tree,” by Stanley Kunitz: “The heart breaks and breaks / and lives by breaking. / It is necessary to go / through dark and deeper dark / and not to turn.” Edward’s heart learns to break again and again — he loses Abilene when he falls overboard, he loses Nellie when he is thrown into the garbage by her daughter, he loses Bull and Lucy when they are thrown off the train, he loses Sara Ruth when she dies, and he loses Bryce who loves him so much he cannot leave him a broken heap of porcelain…

Oh, Edward’s heart does indeed break and break — and as a reader, my heart broke with him. But it’s only through breaking that Edward learns to live and to love and to appreciate those around him. Do we truly only learn through loss? Is it only suffering that shapes the best of us? Is it the stumbles and mistakes and heartbreaks that makes us lovably imperfect?

In any case, I am happy this little bunny, scrapes and all, found his way home again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, fantasy

Hope: The Elephant in the Room?

magician's elephant

“But what if?

Why not?

Could it be?”

Kate DiCamillo’s novel about The Magician’s Elephant is so beautifully written… the only way this story would not pull at your heartstrings is if you genuinely do not have any. Each character has their own story, each one searches for their own happiness, and each one is in desperate need of hope.

At first, the story seemed like a mystery to me — with Peter asking the fortune teller about his sister… does she live? And the fortuneteller’s cryptic answer, “You must follow the elephant… she will lead you there.” But as the characters’ stories unfold, and their deepest desires are exposed to the reader, it’s not so much a mystery as a quest to believe the impossible can come true even in the most hopeless of circumstances.

To the town of Baltese, this elephant that drops out of thin air is a symbol of the impossible coming true. Yet, to the magician, it is but an act of desperation: “Yes, the magician had intended to conjure lilies. But standing on the stage of the Bliffendorf Opera House, before an audience that was indifferent to whatever small diversion he might perform and was waiting only for him to exit and for the real magic to begin, the magician was struck suddenly, and quite forcibly, with the notion that he had wasted his life.” Desperate times may call for desperate measures, after all. Don’t we all wish we could conjure up an elephant when we’re in need of a little appreciation? The magician’s predicament feels quite personal to me — there is such a disconnect between what he intends, and what he actually accomplishes. Though he intends to conjure lilies, his inability to follow through with his intensions haunts him for most of the story… until he can set it right again. But for those of us without magic, how do we set things right again?

The other characters also have conflicting views of this magical elephant: to Peter, “an elephant was a ridiculous answer to any question — but a particularly ridiculous answer to a question posed by the human heart.” To the countess Quintet, the elephant is a status symbol and owning the most coveted animal in town, a reason to have extravagant parties. To Leo Matienne, the elephant is a good omen, but his wife Gloria cannot be so optimistic: “My heart has been broken too many times, and it cannot bear to hear your foolish questions.” Yet, there they were… “what if? … why not? … could it be?” The incessant questions of a hopeful heart — who can silence them? Isn’t that why we want to believe in hope? Isn’t it why we want to believe in magic?

“‘But that is impossible,’ said Peter.

‘Magic is always impossible,’ said the magician. ‘It begins with the impossible and ends with the impossible and is impossible in between. That is why it is magic.'”

Simple enough, right?

Meanwhile, the elephant herself… she suffers so. “It was hard for her to breathe; the world seemed too small. […] Deep within herself, the elephant said this name, her name, over and over again. She was working to remind herself of who she was. She was working to remember that, somewhere, in another place entirely, she was known and loved.” She is out of place. She is unhappy. She is desperate to make her reality a different one. But she is the elephant in the room — locked away so that the town can line up to see the magician’s greatest accomplishment — only Peter truly sees her. Just as he knows how important family is to him, he can see deep within her soul that she needs to go back to her family as well.

In the end, it’s not so much that everyone is looking for hope… but that everyone is hoping for love. The magician needs admiration, Leo Matienne and Gloria need a child, Peter needs his sister, the elephant needs to go home… the town needs a reminder: “It is a bad thing to have love and nowhere to put it.”

And that’s the magic… how do we channel our love, our passion, and our happiness into a worthwhile endeavor? I’m not sure… it seems like it’s impossible all around and in between.

… But what if?

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, fable