Beautiful language elevates the soul

Gentle repetition, powerful emotion and evocative language meld to form the wonderfully compact yet transcendent tale in Kate DiCamillo’s The Magicians Elephant ($16.99, Candlewick Press Publishing). I read it with my 10-year-old daughter, so I had the chance listen and speak the story. When you read aloud, you hear the magic of language and feel it touch your lips, your skin, and your soul.

If you want to write for children, nothing replaces reading quality fiction. DiCamillo, the award-winning author of The Tales of Despereaux, is much celebrated and acclaimed for her fascinating introspection and ability to combine disparate pieces into a meaningful collage. Taking the time to read a book like this elevates our thinking; gives us something higher to which to aspire.

OK, that’s all very high-minded sounding and if you’re a busy mom with a few screaming kids, lunches to make, and of course, the laundry monster growling from a nearby hamper, perhaps you can’t fathom the notion of being “elevated.” Maybe you’re just too darned tired.

Well, good news. The Magician’s Elephant is a very quick read. Ethereal, filled with lyrical repetitions that evoke a surreal time and place, the tale is set in the town of Baletese “at the end of the century before last…”. Peter Augustus Duchene is a heartbroken boy forced to live with a spirit-broken ex-soldier, Vilna Lutz.

Peter’s parents are dead and Vilna Lutz is his guardian, a guardian intent on training the boy to one day become a soldier. But Peter can’t stop thinking the unthinkable — that somewhere out there in the world exists a little girl, his sister. And though Vilna Lutz insists the child died during childbirth, Peter Augustus Duchene is desperate to prove otherwise.

Good reading informs good writing. It also keeps up-and-coming future-authors current on what is hot (and what is not) in children’s literature.

The Magician’s Elephant is a truly good-for-the-soul read. Stay-at-home moms could dedicate a few mornings while waiting for the laundry to dry and poof–just like that–you’ve elevated your souls and tamed the dreaded laundry beast. Working moms, take it along a few nights this week while you’re playing chauffeur. The long wait for a soccer practice or ballet lesson to end could be just enough time to give you that little spiritual boost you need to take the next step and begin your novel.

Be well, my loves. Go forth and be literary!

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