Enchanted Storks: A Tale of Bagdad

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If favor now should greet my story, Allah must receive the glory. The beloved Calif of Bagdad and his trusted vizier are tricked into buying a magic snuffbox from an evil sorcerer that changes them into storks. But with the help of an enchanted princess, the Calif defeats his power-hungry brother and returns in triumph to his great and glorious city. This lyrically retold, spellbinding tale of the Middle East comes brilliantly to life in lavish, intricate watercolor paintings that mirror the richly detailed ...
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Overview

If favor now should greet my story, Allah must receive the glory. The beloved Calif of Bagdad and his trusted vizier are tricked into buying a magic snuffbox from an evil sorcerer that changes them into storks. But with the help of an enchanted princess, the Calif defeats his power-hungry brother and returns in triumph to his great and glorious city. This lyrically retold, spellbinding tale of the Middle East comes brilliantly to life in lavish, intricate watercolor paintings that mirror the richly detailed tapestries of the Middle East.

The Calif of Baghdad is turned into a stork by an evil sorcerer, the only one who knows the magic word that will restore the Calif to his human form.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When the Calif (the ruler of Baghdad) and his Vizier buy a snuffbox from a peddler in the bazaar, they discover an enticing message inside: ``A sniff of snuff, for wings to soar./ Casalavair for hands once more.'' Curious, the men partake and become storks-but the magic word fails to restore them to their human forms. Forced to live on snails and slugs, worms and grubs, etc., the storks eventually happen upon the peddler, actually a sorcerer employed by the Calif's brother Omar, who has assumed the throne. Before this folktale finishes, Calif and Vizier are restored (and the Calif finds a princess bride), Omar is punished and harmony reigns. Well-paced and judiciously seasoned with Middle Eastern flavor, the story is both accessible and exotic. Dianov, a Russian watercolorist making his American publishing debut, adds striking, ornate depictions; their only shortcoming is the lack of differentiation between characters. Even so, the overall effect is splendid. Ages 6-10. (Apr.)
Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
Shepard makes Old Bagdad come alive in this story of a Caliph and his Vizier, transformed into storks through a trick by the Caliph's brother. It sounds like a traditional Middle Eastern tale, and was classified as a folktale of Iraq by the folklorist Harold Courlander. But in fact, William Hauff actually wrote it in the nineteenth century. However it came to be, it is a magical tale, and Shepard says he has used both versions in his retelling. The elaborate illustrations by Alisher Dianov are perfect - never do princesses look so beautiful or villains so totally evil. The sneer on the evil sorcerer's face is fabulous.
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-An original 19th-century German creation with an ``Ali Baba'' air, this fairy tale has been assimilated into Muslim culture and deserves an audience here. It is the story of a good Calif and his Vizier, in ancient Bagdad, tricked by a wicked magician. While they are trapped in the shape of storks, the Calif's brother seizes his throne. They have the good fortune to meet with a weeping bird-an enchanted princess-who tells them where to find the evil sorcerer. They overhear the secret of their disenchantment, free themselves and the princess (who will marry the Calif), and regain the throne. (A long endonote relates the history of the tale and of Bagdad.) The Muscovite illustrator aims for an appropriately 19th-century look of ``oriental splendor.'' Minute details of clothing, architecture, decoration, and nature embellish scenes bordered by golden curliques, flourishes, and the odd gem. Faces faithfully reflect character: at least, the evil ones (the Calif is a bit bland, and the princess shows no hint of the ``dancing eyes'' attributed to her). Good triumphs, though without any deep moral message, but perhaps this gorgeous panoply will balance the demonizing of Bagdad in current events.-Patricia (Dooley) Lothrop Green, St. George's School, Newport, RI
Ilene Cooper
When the Calif and his Vizier purchase a magic snuff box, they turn themselves into storks--but soon realize they don't have the magic word to turn themselves back into men. As the two storks fly about, forced to eat toads and bugs, Omar, the Calif's brother, takes over Baghdad; it becomes clear that Omar, with the aid of a nefarious magician, has instigated the spell. Only when the Calif and the Vizier learn the magic word are they able to save themselves, their country, and a beautiful maiden who has fallen under a spell. The ornate and highly detailed paintings that flow around the lengthy text are full of eye-catching delights that demand a second and third glance. An excellent example of Middle Eastern folklore, this makes good use of its Islamic setting in both story and art. The detailed author's note gives the story's sources and adds to the book's usefulness. A worthy addition to folklore collections, and one that should fill a niche.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395653777
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 4/1/1995
  • Pages: 31
  • Age range: 7 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.54 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

Aaron Shepard is a professional storyteller who specializes in retelling folktales from many cultures. He lives in San Pedro, California.

Alisher Dianov lives in Russia.

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