April 2016

The Tale of Despereaux

The Magician’s Take 

by Kate DiCamillo

When a fortuneteller's tent appears in the market square of the city of Baltese, orphan Peter Augustus Duchene knows the questions that he needs to ask: Does his sister still live? And if so, how can he find her?

The fortuneteller's mysterious answer (an elephant! An elephant will lead him there!) sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that you will hardly dare to believe it’s true.

This dreamlike and captivating tale evokes the largest of themes—hope and belonging, desire and compassion—with the lightness of a magician’s touch.


A Note from the First Lady:

Dear Read20 Book Club families,

I love that books can stretch our imaginations, teach us new things, and take us to places that reality can’t. You and your family will love this magical story about trusting the unexpected and making the extraordinary come true.

The adventure begins when a magician’s spell triggers the appearance of an elephant. Suddenly, the lives of orphan Peter Augustus Duchene, his guardian, the local policeman, a magician, as well as a beggar, his dog, a sculptor, and a nun are all intertwined. The miraculous events resolve not only the mystery of the whereabouts of Peter's sister, but also the deeper needs of all of the individuals involved.

This is an excellent book to read aloud. Its rhythmic sentences and fairy-tale tone will keep your family turning the pages as you are whisked away in the magic and mystery of the story. You will be sure to find yourselves asking “What if? Why not? Could it be?”. Get ready for magic to unfold and check out Kate DiCamillo’s The Magician’s Elephant!

Keep up the great reading,

Crissy Haslam
First Lady of Tennessee


Family Activities

  1. In the book the magician says, “Magic is always impossible. It begins with the impossible and ends with the impossible and is impossible in between. That is why it is magic.” What is your definition of magic? What has happened in your life that is magical or unexpected?
  2. Imagine that you were making room for an elephant in your home or in your classroom. How much floor space would the elephant need? How tall would the ceiling need to be? Using a piece of paper or removable object, mark where the elephant’s footprints would be on the floor and where the top of its head would be—that is, if your ceiling is high enough! Research what kind of food and how much food an elephant requires and calculate how much it would cost to feed your visitor for a week.
  3. Faith, hope and coming of age are central themes of this story. Peter believes that if he can find the elephant, he will find his sister. This faith and hope overcomes even his doubt that he can keep his promise. Talk about a time when you have had to test your faith and hope that something would work out. How did you overcome your challenge? What did you learn about yourself along the way? Why do you think it is important to believe you can overcome challenges? 
  4. Kate DiCamillo is an amazing, award-winning author of more than 17 books! She was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, raised in Clermont, Florida, and currently lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She writes books for both children and adults and she says she loves to tell stories. 

    Here are a few more facts Kate shares about herself:

    I am short. And loud. I hate to cook and love to eat. I am single and childless, but I have lots of friends and I am an aunt to three lovely children (Luke, Roxanne, and Max) and one not so lovely dog (Henry). I think of myself as an enormously lucky person, because I get to tell stories for a living.

    Imagine that you are a famous, award-winning author. Write a few sentences describing yourself, your family, and the things you like to do. Describe the types of books you would write and who would you like to read them.

    Kate DiCamillo will be visiting Nashville Public Library on Saturday, May 7 at 2:00 pm, and you can attend the free event to ask questions about the books she has written and her life as an author. She also invites her fans to ask questions on her facebook page if you cannot attend the event!