Ali and the Magic Stew

Ali and the Magic Stew

by Shulamith Levey Oppenheim, Winslow Pels

Boyds Mills Press publishes a wide range of high-quality fiction and nonfiction picture books, chapter books, novels, and nonfiction


Boyds Mills Press publishes a wide range of high-quality fiction and nonfiction picture books, chapter books, novels, and nonfiction

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A healing stew that can only cure if its ingredients have been bought with money begged from passersby simmers at the center of Oppenheim's (The Hundredth Name) uplifting tale. Ali ibn Ali, the spoiled son of a rich merchant, scoffs at the beggar outside their palace gates and asks why his parents allow him to sit there. "A true Muslim gives to the poor, the crippled, the homeless, the hungry. That beggar is all of these," replies his mother, "a woman of great beauty and even greater kindness." When Ali's beloved father falls ill after a business trip, he requests shula kalambar, a stew. The beggar at the gate tells Ali that he must beg for the money to buy the stew's components. The boy swallows his pride and dons the beggar's ragged cloak to help his father, enduring jeers and catcalls until he completes his mission. His father is healed, and Ali, full of new humility, approaches the beggar he once despised to thank him. Pels (Spectacles) characterizes the beggar as profoundly serene, sitting in a Zen-like posture, thus creating a mystical presence for this spiritual guide. Multilayered tableaux incorporate computer-altered images of kilims, copper vessels and exotic fabrics; the jewels on the family appear to glisten. Oppenheim's text moves right along, and delivers an ageless moral. Ages 5-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
Ali, a child of wealthy and compassionate parents, scorns the beggar at the palace gate. When his father becomes deathly ill and requires a special stew, Ali learns from the beggar that the necessary ingredients must be purchased with money earned by the begging of a family member. Dressed in the beggar's rags, Ali learns humility along with compassion as he painfully acquires what is needed to cure his father. Pels employs multiple patterns to create rather static tableaus, stage sets in which architectural elements blend with ornately costumed characters and many artifacts for the exotic flavor of old Persia. Ali's monkey adds comic bits to this very decorative moral tale. 2002, Boyds Mills Press, $15.95. Ages 5 to 9. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Ali ibn Ali is a selfish little rich boy, languid and spoiled, who loves only his parents and his pet monkey. The beggar who sits at their front gate day after day annoys him, and the child is frustrated that his persistent requests to have the old man removed meet with softly worded refusals from his parents. They, in fact, regard the beggar as a blessing. Indeed, he becomes just that for Ali when his father is taken ill and only a particular stew, shula kalambar, can save him. As he goes to get the necessary ingredients, he trips over the beggar who, to his surprise, tells him that he must disguise himself and beg for what he needs, if his father is to live. Unwillingly, the boy does so, and, in the process, not only saves his beloved father, but changes his own life as well. The fluid prose manages, just barely, to escape the didactic, and the point is, if not hammered home, at least knocked sharply into place. Nonetheless, and despite considerable predictability, Ali's situation does evoke sympathy; and there is enough tension in the narrative line to hold readers. Pels's lush, stylized full-page illustrations are indeed reminiscent of Persian miniatures in their depth of color and attention to detail. Just a bit too long for reading aloud, this book may well be picked up on the basis of its pictorial strength and stuck with for the ultimately involving story.-Ann Welton, Grant Elementary School, Tacoma, WA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Oppenheim (Yanni Rubbish, 1999, etc.) employs familiar motifs to craft a story with the feel of a folktale. Ali ibn Ali is the much-loved but spoiled son of kind, doting parents. His haughty disregard for others, particularly the beggar at the gate of his palace, causes his mother to remark, "A true Muslim gives to the poor, the crippled, the homeless, the hungry." When Ali's father becomes mysteriously and gravely ill, Ali's only hope to save him, according to the beggar, is to discard his expensive clothes, take up a beggar's bowl, and beg for money to buy the ingredients for a stew that will heal his father. Ali finds that begging is a humiliating and humbling experience. But the advice proves correct: the magic remedy cures his father, Ali learns the healing power of kindness, and the archetypal giver of wisdom melts into the night sky. With opulent, stylized illustrations that have the flavor of the Thousand and One Nights, this tale is ultimately as satisfying as Ali's stew. And the references to Allah may stimulate conversation. (Picture book. 5-9)

Product Details

Highlights Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
9.26(w) x 12.26(h) x 0.08(d)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

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