Peter stood in the small patch of light making its sullen way through the open flap of the tent. He let the fortuneteller take his hand. She examined it closely, moving her eyes back and forth and back and forth, as if there a whole host of very small words inscribed there, an entire book about Peter Augustus Duchene composed atop his palm.
"Huh," she said at last. She dropped his hand and squinted up at his face. "But, of course, you are just a boy."
"I am ten years old," said Peter. He took the hat from his head and stood as straight and tall as he was able. "And I am training to become a soldier, brave and true. But it does not matter how old I am. You took the florit, so now you must give me my answer."
"A soldier brave and true?" said the fortuneteller. She laughed and spat on the ground. "Very well, soldier brave and true, if you say it is so, then it is so. Ask me your question."
Peter felt a small stab of fear. What if after all this time he could not bear the truth? What if he did not really want to know?
"Speak," said the fortuneteller. "Ask."
"My parents," said Peter.
"That is your question?" said the fortuneteller. "They are dead."
Peter's hands trembled. "That is not my question," he said. "I know that already. You must tell me something that I do not know. You must tell me of another — you must tell me . . ."
The fortuneteller narrowed her eyes. "Ah," she said. "Her? Your sister? That is your question? Very well. She lives."
Peter's heart seized upon the words. She lives. She lives!
"No, please," said Peter. He closed his eyes. He concentrated. "If she lives, then I must find her, so my question is, how I do I make my way there, to where she is?"
He kept his eyes closed; he waited.
"The elephant," said the fortuneteller.
"What?" he said. He opened his eyes, certain that he had misunderstood.
"You must follow the elephant," said the fortuneteller, "she will lead you there."From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo. Copyright © 2009 by Kate DiCamillo. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.