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Candlewick Press, 2009
ISBN 978-0-76364-410-9

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.

With atmospheric illustrations by fine artist Yoko Tanaka, here is a dreamlike and captivating tale that could only be narrated by Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo. In this timeless fable, she evokes the largest of themes—hope and belonging, desire and compassion—with the lightness of a magician’s touch.

Read the Reviews
DiCamillo’s carefully crafted prose creates an evocative aura of timelessness for a story that is, in fact, timeless. Tanaka’s acrylic artwork is meticulous in detail and aptly matches the tone of the narrative. This is a book that demands to be read aloud. —School Library Journal

From the unexpectedly miraculous feats of a two-bit illusionist to the transformative powers of love, forgiveness, and a good mutton stew, there is much magic afoot in this fable-like tale… The profound and deeply affecting emotions at work in the story are buoyed up by the tale's succinct, lyrical text, gentle touches of humor, and uplifting message of redemption, hope, and the interminable power of asking 'what if?' —Booklist

DiCamillo's allegorical novel seems to pack more mass per square inch than average. The plot is fantastical, surreal…And the prose is remarkable, reflecting influences from Kafka to the theater of the absurd to Laurel-and-Hardy humor. —The Horn Book

The mannered prose and Tanaka's delicate, darkly hued paintings give the story a somber and old-fashioned feel. The absurdist elements-street vendors peddle chunks of the now-infamous opera house ceiling with the cry "Possess the plaster of disaster!"—leaven the overall seriousness, and there is a happy if predictable ending for the eccentric cast of anguished characters, each finding something to make them whole. —Publishers Weekly

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